Cahiers du Cinema – David Blakemore

In the 1950’s, a collective group of French film critics, led by Andre Bazin and Jacques Donial-Valcroze, formed a journal of film criticism called Cahiers du Cinema, which eventually led to the French New Wave, a revolutionary period for French and international cinema.

The film critics had been influenced by the writings of French film critic Alexandre Astruc, who wrote a famous article ‘The birth of a New Avant-Barde: La Camera-Stylo’, in which he argued that cinema was stuck in the same ‘tyranny of narrative’, Alexandre Astruc idolises Orson Welles throughout his article, Astruc said in his article ‘This art, although blessed with an enormous potential, is an easy prey to prejudice; it cannot go on for ever ploughing the same field of realism and social fantasy’.

It is seen that Alexandre Astruc begins the ideology of the ‘auteur theory’, the Auteur theory was born out of these French critics and film-makers from Cahiers du Cinema, Francois Truffaut in particular, the word auteur was developed from the word author, an auteur is a director who are the major force in film-making, someone who has a distinctive style and a signature status, examples are Alfred Hitchcock and Quentin Tarantino, the Auteur theory can characterize a director’s films and make them easily recognisable, this can be down to character archetypes, editing style and effects, micro and macro features, also other key elements within film-making.

So, in Alexandre Astruc’s article, he is seen to begin the ‘auteur theory’, he says ‘The scriptwriter directs his own scripts; or rather, that the scriptwriter ceases to exist, for in this kind of film-making the distinction between author and director loses all meaning. Direction is no longer a means of illustrating ore presenting a scene, but a true act of writing. The film-maker/author writes with his camera as a writer writes with his pen.’

Cahiers du Cinema have made a major change and have been significant in the evolution of cinema, The film-makers of the French New Wave are unique and distinctive enough to stand out on their own but they collectively became one of the most influential movements in cinema history.

The five most influential film-makers who came from Cahiers du Cinema are Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol, Rivette and Rohmer, making 32 films in total between the years of 1959 and 1966. The director’s Aesthetics include, not following a script pre-established shooting script, shooting in natural locations, a small crew, direct sound (diegetic), they do not depend on additonal lighting, use of non-professional actors and will direct famous actors in a free manner.

The context of the French New Wave, radicalism and socialism, content vs. style, realism (real locations, improvised scripts, natural lighting and hand-held cameras), and the portrayal of real life through ordinary characters.

The main films to come out of the French New Wave are, Two English Girls (1971), Jules + Jim (1962), 400 blows (1959), The Butcher (1970), Breathless (1960), Finally Sunday (1983), The soft skin (1964), Weekend (1967). Also in 2010, a documentary called Two in the Wave was created, it is a story about the friendship of two writers and film-makers of Cahiers du Cinema, they are Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut.

Overall, i believe that the critics and film-makers of Cahiers du Cinema have been a major movement in cinema, the French New Wave revolutionised Cinema, narrative styles and the birth of the auteur theory, these have left a lasting legacy, which contribute to modern cinema, directors such as Martin Scorsese say that they are influenced by the French New Wave.

However, Cahiers du Cinema can be criticized within contemporary cinema, i am led to believe, is the auteur theory out-dated? with the film industry and technology rapidly progressing, can there be only one major force in film-making? Films are seen as collaborative productions, with the expansion of technology, new roles are developed within film-making, therefore a wider array of skills is needed in order to make a box-office success.

Therefore, is it possible to follow the exact same style of the French New Wave  and the film-makers of Cahiers du Cinema within the modern film industry and be able to produce a box office success?

David Blakemore.

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One thought on “Cahiers du Cinema – David Blakemore

  1. Well, David, this is all very fascinating and thank you for sharing it–the idea of auteur theory is very important when it comes to considering the impact of modern directors and writers in the media. However, it kind of misses the mark from what you were asked to in some ways. I appreciate what is here–very much so in fact, but now can you please apply your understanding by sharing with us how this movement can be applied to contemporary cinema. You mention Scorsese, but to help other people understand, please can you write three examples below of the auteur theory in action for those of us who aren’t up to date with our French New Wave Cinema…

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