"The Yardstick of Celluloid Cool"

A-W Project Presents

Text - Anthony Jones / Photography - Alfredo Contreras / Editor - Anna Becker / Model - Maddi Smith

In any effort to make your mark on the world, there is always the inevitable possibility it has already been done before. Creative work especially, requires an admiration for someone else, while demanding you to bring a new perspective and style to the foreground in order to present something unique. The story of “La Nouvelle Vague” or “The New Wave,” a transformative period of French film-making in the ‘60s, is a foundation for the do-it-yourself attitude. As a creator taking part in the A-W Project, the movement has inspired myself and others to start something new.

 

"The filmmakers of the La Nouvelle Vague were students and dropouts, physicians and athletes with a common interest in film and a desire to share their ideas."

 The first time I saw Jean-Luc Godard’s New Wave film, “Breathless” I was honestly unimpressed. During film studies, I read a lot in editorials and textbooks about Godard and how his revolutionary style was the forefront of the group known as the New Wave. I made the mistake of looking at history expecting to see something new. The novelty was not apparent to me until I turned my attention 50 years forward to present-day work by the likes of American filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson, when it dawned on me where modern filmmakers drew their ideas from. Over the span of 50-60 years not much had changed beyond the invention of new cameras, equipment, and a different political and social climate that audiences were looking for on the screen. Had it not been for the work of French film directors like Godard, Francois Truffaut, and Claude Charbol, the market today would not allow for films that were true to life or the unique creative vision of a singular director rather than a production company.

 

Prior to the release of “Breathless” and other films produced during the New Wave era, films were the product of studios and the unified vision of a company seeking to sell a product.  While a lot of the work released during that period was well received, it was also criticized by Godard and Truffaut who felt the work was voiceless and indistinguishable from one to another.  New Wave directors built off the idea that a film should be like a painting to a painter, or a novel to an author. Style, personality, and even personal experience, was infused into their work adding to their goal of personal authorship of a film.

"In any effort to make your mark on the world, there is always the inevitable possibility that it’s all already been done before"

 

Godard’s debut “Breathless,” opens with a bizarre sequence following actor Jean Paul Belmondo’s character, Michel, as he steals a car, finds a gun, and eventually pulls the trigger on a police officer- all within the first 10 minutes of the film. The rest of the story follows Michel and Patricia, played by Jean Seberg, as they wander around Paris. The action in the introduction and throughout the whole film is broken up by jarring editing techniques that skip through a scene, as characters speak directly into the camera talking to the audience, and voice overs detailing the characters’ thoughts. Where many filmmakers strive to immerse the viewer into the movie so they forget they are watching, Godard sought to break that immersion by reminding the audience that they were watching a film, a maneuver that could not be mistaken for anyone else’s creation.

 

However original this film may seem, the whole project would not have been possible had it not been for the work of the American films that inspired him. It was Godard’s admiration for the endearing criminals with style and charisma portrayed in American films which led to the creation of Breathless and Belmondo’s character. Michel’s style of dress and demeanor is an interpretation of how Godard had seen his character portrayed before. In an early scene, Michel is staring at an American movie poster, imitating the mannerisms of actor Humphrey Bogart, who plays a character similar to himself, a bandit going against the laws of society. Where his American role model is clever, composed, and mature, moving seamlessly through transitions to the end of his story, Michel is often lost and clumsy and a victim himself to the obvious manipulation of a director. Even his co-star Jean Seberg, who plays Patricia, his American girlfriend, playfully rejects his advances, reflecting Godard’s American ambitions falling short as an imitation. This film achieves novelty through participating in the cycle of creativity as an acknowledgment of established rules and methods, and finding ways to insert a new vision.

 

Some key scenes in the film are those where the characters are self-aware of the story and medium. Where a romantic crime drama made in Hollywood or in France might go along at a typical pace, “Breathless” plays with this format by letting the two characters wander around Paris and talk about themselves, making a stop in the bedroom of an apartment where the director’s influence becomes most obvious. The camera shifts attention away from the characters to paintings, clothes hung up in the closet, and other items around the apartment. Patricia is framed in the bathroom mirror brushing her hair instead of talking face-to-face with Michel, who also takes the seriousness out of the scene by hiding under the covers and making faces. What should be a brief and simple scene, stands out because the actors and director are unable to sit still and take themselves seriously, contrary to an industry that thrives on attention and self-importance.

The filmmakers of the New Wave were students, dropouts, physicians, and athletes with a common interest in film and a desire to share their ideas. They went from film critics to filmmakers because of their unique goals to express rather than impress. When given the opportunity, they unintentionally created a brand new style and set of expectations for future films because of their own creative vision working with what inspired them.

 

Prior to the release of “Breathless” and other films produced during the New Wave era, films were the product of studios and the unified vision of a company seeking to sell a product.  While a lot of the work released during that period was well received, it was also criticized by Godard and Truffaut who felt the work was voiceless and indistinguishable from one to another.  New Wave directors built off the idea that a film should be like a painting to a painter, or a novel to an author. Style, personality, and even personal experience, was infused into their work adding to their goal of personal authorship of a film.

However original this film may seem, the whole project would not have been possible had it not been for the work of the American films that inspired him. It was Godard’s admiration for the endearing criminals with style and charisma portrayed in American films which led to the creation of Breathless and Belmondo’s character. Michel’s style of dress and demeanor is an interpretation of how Godard had seen his character portrayed before. In an early scene, Michel is staring at an American movie poster, imitating the mannerisms of actor Humphrey Bogart, who plays a character similar to himself, a bandit going against the laws of society. Where his American role model is clever, composed, and mature, moving seamlessly through transitions to the end of his story, Michel is often lost and clumsy and a victim himself to the obvious manipulation of a director. Even his co-star Jean Seberg, who plays Patricia, his American girlfriend, playfully rejects his advances, reflecting Godard’s American ambitions falling short as an imitation. This film achieves novelty through participating in the cycle of creativity as an acknowledgment of established rules and methods, and finding ways to insert a new vision.

In any effort to make your mark on the world, there is always the inevitable possibility it has already been done before. Creative work especially, requires an admiration for someone else, while demanding you to bring a new perspective and style to the foreground in order to present something unique. The story of “La Nouvelle Vague” or “The New Wave,” a transformative period of French film-making in the ‘60s, is a foundation for the do-it-yourself attitude. As a creator taking part in the A-W Project, the movement has inspired myself and others to start something new.

 

"The filmmakers of the La Nouvelle Vague were students and dropouts, physicians and athletes with a common interest in film and a desire to share their ideas."

 

 The first time I saw Jean-Luc Godard’s New Wave film, “Breathless” I was honestly unimpressed. During film studies, I read a lot in editorials and textbooks about Godard and how his revolutionary style was the forefront of the group known as the New Wave. I made the mistake of looking at history expecting to see something new. The novelty was not apparent to me until I turned my attention 50 years forward to present-day work by the likes of American filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson, when it dawned on me where modern filmmakers drew their ideas from. Over the span of 50-60 years not much had changed beyond the invention of new cameras, equipment, and a different political and social climate that audiences were looking for on the screen. Had it not been for the work of French film directors like Godard, Francois Truffaut, and Claude Charbol, the market today would not allow for films that were true to life or the unique creative vision of a singular director rather than a production company.

Prior to the release of “Breathless” and other films produced during the New Wave era, films were the product of studios and the unified vision of a company seeking to sell a product.  While a lot of the work released during that period was well received, it was also criticized by Godard and Truffaut who felt the work was voiceless and indistinguishable from one to another.  New Wave directors built off the idea that a film should be like a painting to a painter, or a novel to an author. Style, personality, and even personal experience, was infused into their work adding to their goal of personal authorship of a film.

"In any effort to make your mark on the world, there is always the inevitable possibility that it’s all already been done before"

 

Godard’s debut “Breathless,” opens with a bizarre sequence following actor Jean Paul Belmondo’s character, Michel, as he steals a car, finds a gun, and eventually pulls the trigger on a police officer- all within the first 10 minutes of the film. The rest of the story follows Michel and Patricia, played by Jean Seberg, as they wander around Paris. The action in the introduction and throughout the whole film is broken up by jarring editing techniques that skip through a scene, as characters speak directly into the camera talking to the audience, and voice overs detailing the characters’ thoughts. Where many filmmakers strive to immerse the viewer into the movie so they forget they are watching, Godard sought to break that immersion by reminding the audience that they were watching a film, a maneuver that could not be mistaken for anyone else’s creation.

However original this film may seem, the whole project would not have been possible had it not been for the work of the American films that inspired him. It was Godard’s admiration for the endearing criminals with style and charisma portrayed in American films which led to the creation of Breathless and Belmondo’s character. Michel’s style of dress and demeanor is an interpretation of how Godard had seen his character portrayed before. In an early scene, Michel is staring at an American movie poster, imitating the mannerisms of actor Humphrey Bogart, who plays a character similar to himself, a bandit going against the laws of society. Where his American role model is clever, composed, and mature, moving seamlessly through transitions to the end of his story, Michel is often lost and clumsy and a victim himself to the obvious manipulation of a director. Even his co-star Jean Seberg, who plays Patricia, his American girlfriend, playfully rejects his advances, reflecting Godard’s American ambitions falling short as an imitation. This film achieves novelty through participating in the cycle of creativity as an acknowledgment of established rules and methods, and finding ways to insert a new vision.

Some key scenes in the film are those where the characters are self-aware of the story and medium. Where a romantic crime drama made in Hollywood or in France might go along at a typical pace, “Breathless” plays with this format by letting the two characters wander around Paris and talk about themselves, making a stop in the bedroom of an apartment where the director’s influence becomes most obvious. The camera shifts attention away from the characters to paintings, clothes hung up in the closet, and other items around the apartment. Patricia is framed in the bathroom mirror brushing her hair instead of talking face-to-face with Michel, who also takes the seriousness out of the scene by hiding under the covers and making faces. What should be a brief and simple scene, stands out because the actors and director are unable to sit still and take themselves seriously, contrary to an industry that thrives on attention and self-importance.

The filmmakers of the New Wave were students, dropouts, physicians, and athletes with a common interest in film and a desire to share their ideas. They went from film critics to filmmakers because of their unique goals to express rather than impress. When given the opportunity, they unintentionally created a brand new style and set of expectations for future films because of their own creative vision working with what inspired them.