A History of the French New Wave Cinema (Richard Neupert, second Edition 2007)
Séries Wisconsin Studies in Film, 440 pages, Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 2 edition (February 19, 2007)



Richard Neupert is associate professor of film studies at the University of Georgia. He is the author of The End: Closure and Narration in the Cinema and his translations include Aesthetics of Film and French New Wave: An Artistic School.

4° de couverture

The French New Wave cinema is arguably the most fascinating of all film movements, famous for its exuberance, daring, and avant-garde techniques. A History of the French New Wave Cinema offers a fresh look at the social, economic, and aesthetic mechanisms that shaped French film in the 1950s, as well as detailed studies of the most important New Wave movies of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Richard Neupert first tracks the precursors to New Wave cinema, showing how they provided blueprints for those who would follow. He then demonstrates that it was a core group of critics-turned-directors from the magazine Cahiers du Cinéma—especially François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, and Jean-Luc Godard—who really revealed that filmmaking was changing forever. Later, their cohorts Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, and Pierre Kast continued in their own unique ways to expand the range and depth of the New Wave.

In an exciting new chapter, Neupert explores the subgroup of French film practice known as the Left Bank Group, which included directors such as Alain Resnais and Agnès Varda. With the addition of this new material and an updated conclusion, Neupert presents a comprehensive review of the stunning variety of movies to come out of this important era in filmmaking.


« Despite their differences, these films share connections, a common essence which is nothing less than their notion of mise-en-scène, or a filmic écriture, based on shared principles. Just as one recognizes the vintage of a great wine by its body, color, and scent, one recognizes a nouvelle vague film by its style. »—Claire Clouzot, Le cinéma français

 « The New Wave was a freedom of expression, a new fashion of acting, and a great reform on the level of make-up. I was part of a new generation that refused to wear the two inches of pancake base paint and hair pieces that were still standard equipment for actors. Suddenly, you saw actors who looked natural, like they had just gotten out of bed. »  —Françoise Brion, in La nouvelle vague

The French New Wave is one of the most significant film movements in the history of the cinema. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the New Wave rejuvenated France’s already prestigious cinema and energized the international art cinema as well as film criticism and theory, reminding many contemporary observers of Italian neorealism’s impact right after World War II. The New Wave dramatically changed filmmaking inside and outside France by encouraging new styles, themes, and modes of production throughout the world. Suddenly, there were scores of new, young twenty- and thirty-something directors, such as Louis Malle, François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, and Claude Chabrol, delivering film after film while launching a new generation of stars, including Jeanne Moreau, Jean-Claude Brialy, and Jean-Paul Belmondo. As a result of new production norms and a cluster of young producers anxious to participate in this burst of filmmaking, roughly 120 first-time French directors were able to shoot feature-length motion pictures between the years 1958 and 1964. Moreover, many of those young directors made several films during those years—Jean-Luc Godard alone released eight features in four years-so the total number of New Wave films is truly staggering. The New Wave taught an entire generation to experiment with the rules of storytelling, but also to rethink conventional film budgets and production norms. A whole new array of options for film aesthetics was born, often combined with tactics from the past that were dusted off and reinvigorated alongside them.

Thanks in part to a renewed interest in the New Wave in France on its fortieth anniversary, increased attention has recently been directed at this movement from a wide range of critics and historians, including prominent figures in French film scholarship like Michel Marie, Jean Douchet, and Antoine de Baecque. The French film journal Cahiers du cinéma also organized a special issue devoted to the nouvelle vague.

But given the depth, significance, and variety of the New Wave, much about the movement is still left unexamined. Large survey histories necessarily condense this era and its major figures into simple summaries, while texts devoted to the French cinema or to the New Wave in particular, such as James Monaco’s The New Wave, Roy Armes’s French Cinema, and Alan Williams’s Republic of Images, offer quite different perspectives on the New Wave, though they all end up privileging the directors who had begun as critics for Cahiers du cinéma before shooting their first features. For Monaco, the New Wave really amounts to François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer, and Jacques Rivette, and he is unconcerned with defining the movement or its dates. Armes divides New Wave­era France into clusters of renewals coming from various new groups of directors. For him, however, New Wave directors have to come directly from criticism; hence he, too, regards the Cahiers du cinéma filmmakers as the only pure members. Armes avoids explaining the New Wave as a historical or critical term. Williams does a more complete job, especially for a large survey history, establishing some key influences and classifying the most important directors as the « reformists, » including Malle, Chabrol, and Truffaut, in contrast to more marginal directors, like Rohmer, or radical directors, such as Godard.

All these sources help round out a sense of the significance of new directors, themes, and production techniques, but they generally fail to grant adequate space to the cultural context of 1950s France, the history of Cahiers du cinéma’s participation, or the resulting films’ unusual narrative tactics. Readers are often left without a clear understanding of just what made the New Wave so exciting and challenging to international audiences at the time. The New Wave’s « newness » has too often been reduced to a tidy list of representative traits culled from a few canonical films and directors. By contrast, this study lends more depth and breadth to the era while remaining focused on the Cahiers directors as exemplary representatives of New Wave filmmaking.

Since every reader will come to this book with overlapping but slightly different perceptions of the New Wave, it is valuable here to lay down a concise working definition of the term, its participants, and its results. While the French film industry had always been much more open to individual producers and writer-directors than were most national cinemas, by the middle 1950s there was a general perception, both in the industry and in the popular press, that French film was losing its direction, bogged down as it was in generic historical reconstructions and uninspired literary adaptations. Individual stylists like Jacques Tati and Robert Bresson were becoming more and more rare. Yet, while the so-called tradition of quality of post­World War II French cinema was earning steady profits with movies like Autant-Lara’s Le rouge et le noir (The Red and the Black, 1954), those traditional films seemed further and further isolated from contemporary life during a time when ciné-clubs and new film journals were looking for an exciting modern cinema. Claude Autant-Lara (b. 1901) and his generation of aging leftists became scapegoats of the new young cinephiles and critics like François Truffaut. French cinema was said to be in desperate need of a new direction.

France’s cinematic revival came at first from a handful of young directors who found novel ways to fund and shoot their movies, often in direct defiance of commercial and narrative norms. Influenced as much by Jean Renoir of the 1930s, Italian neorealism of the 1940s, and selected Hollywood directors of the 1950s, young directors like Louis Malle, Claude Chabrol, and François Truffaut began to make movies that avoided some of the dominant constraints. They used their own production money or found unconventional producers to make low-budget films set within the milieus they knew best: contemporary France of contemporary middleclass youths. To shoot inexpensively, they followed the lead of the neorealists, shooting primarily on location, using new or lesser-known actors and small production crews. Filming on the streets where they lived or in the apartments where they grew up and without stars or huge professional crews, these directors managed to turn financial shortcomings to their advantage.

Admittedly amateurish on some levels, their tales looked honest and urgent, in contrast to costume dramas set in Stendhal’s France. The rule of thumb was to shoot as quickly as possible with portable equipment, sacrificing the control and glamour of mainstream productions for a lively, modern look and sound that owed more to documentary and television shooting methods than to mainstream, commercial cinema. For these filmmakers, glamorous three-point lighting, smooth crane shots, and classically mixed soundtrackswere not only out of reach, they were the arsenal of a bloated, doomed cinema. As more producers and writer-directors saw that inexpensive movies not only could be made but also could earn a profit and good critical reviews, the number of first-time feature filmmakers exploded. Suddenly in 1959 and 1960 there were more movies in production by small-time producers and optimistic though untested directors than at any time in the history of the sound cinema. The renewal was now called a wave.

New Wave stories tended to be loosely organized around rather complex, spontaneous young characters. Importantly, unpolished, sometimes disjointed film styles fit these rather chaotic, good-humored tales of youths wandering through contemporary France. Most historians point to 1959 as the first full year of the nouvelle vague—that is the year when the term was first applied to films by Truffaut, Chabrol, and Alain Resnais in particular—and its ending is considered to be anywhere from 1963, the year when the number of new directors declined dramatically, to 1968, the year of the May rebellions. Some critics, however, localize the New Wave so much in specific auteurs that every film ever shot by people like Rohmer, Truffaut, or Godard counts as nouvelle vague: once a « waver » always a « waver, » according to some spectators and historians. For reasons that will become clear, this study prefers to summarize the New Wave as a complex network of historical forces, including all films made by young directors exploiting new modes of production as well as unusual story and style options. The New Wave per se lasts from 1958 through 1964. The New Wave era is just that, a time period during which social, technological, economic, and cinematic factors helped generate one of the most intensely creative movements in film history. The New Wave involves more than directors and movie titles; it comprises a whole new interpretation of the cinema and its narrative strategies.

To a certain extent, the unfortunate condensation and canonization of the New Wave into a list of directors began with Cahiers du cinéma, itself one of the key historians of the movement, which devoted an entire issue to the nouvelle vague in December 1962. That issue, organized by Jacques Doniol-Valcroze with strong participation from François Truffaut, became a model for how the New Wave has subsequently been described, defined, and summarized. The first sixty pages are devoted to three twenty-page interviews with Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, and François Truffaut; the next twenty-five pages are filled with short encyclopedic entries about « 162 New French Filmmakers, » typically including a list of their short and long films, one or two paragraphs summing up their contributions, and a snapshot of the director, when available. The final fifteen pages present an interesting roundtable discussion of the industrial climate for French cinema and the hurdles that continued to challenge New Wave production practices and box-office successes.

That Cahiers du cinéma should declare that the New Wave involved 162 new filmmakers working in France but devote the bulk of their 1962 special issue to three directors establishes two important trends that will unfortunately persist in most historical summaries of the New Wave. First, while the importance of the Wave lies in its vast size, with scores of firsttime directors suddenly getting to make feature films, the most significant participants are really assumed to be the Cahiers critics-turned-directors, especially Chabrol, Godard, and Truffaut. Second, the New Wave is presented as a collection of people rather than of films or socioeconomic conditions. The Cahiers special issue is arranged, not around a chronology of the jeune cinéma, but around the words and faces of young auteurs. The New Wave becomes a list of directors, although even Cahiers leaves it unclear whether all of these 162 are nouvelle vague or just new and worth noting.

The Cahiers list is particularly weak as a defining tally since some of the 162 directors collected in the Cahiers chronicle had begun their careers earlier (Pierre-Domique Gaisseau’s first feature was in 1950, Claude Barma’s in 1951). Several of the directors, such as Edgar Morin, worked exclusively in documentary, and others on the list, including Michel Fermaud and Henri Torrent, had only so far been codirectors. Noel Burch was included for having written a scenario and serving as assistant on several films; he had not yet directed a feature. And while novelist Jean Giono had just shot his first film, Crésus, in 1960, he was hardly young; Giono was born in 1895. Cahiers also included the « spiritual fathers » of the New Wave, Roger Leenhardt and Jean-Pierre Melville, who both shot their first features in 1947. Further, the brief summaries for a number of the directors, including Serge Bourguignon (whose Cybèle ou les dimanches de Ville-d’Avary [Sundays and Cybèle, 1962] went on to win the Academy Award for best foreign film) were quite hostile. Similarly, they dismiss Henri Fabiani’s Le bonheur est pour demain (Happiness Comes Tomorrow, 1960) as an artificial film that looks as if it were made by a sixteen-year old who had misunderstood Soviet montage! Bourguignon and Fabiani are not alone; Cahiers dismisses several directors as immature, simplistic, and even embarrassing during this time of aesthetic upheaval and renewal.

Thus, while on the surface Cahiers seems to be championing 162 new directors, its list is hardly an endorsement of all that is youthful in French cinema. For Cahiers du cinéma, nouvelle vague possesses connotations of originality and critical value; new directors have the potential to make it into the New Wave camp, but few are actually accorded the label. The Cahiers chronicle is very helpful in providing one subjective compilation of people involved in making feature films during this era, but it obviously has shortcomings. Interestingly, this encyclopedic tally includes only three women, Agnès Varda, Paula Delsol (La dérive [The Drift], 1962), and television writer Francine Premysler, herself a codirector (La memoirecourte [Short Memory], 1962). The Cahiers assumption that only directors are worth listing inevitably excludes women by minimizing the effects that the wide range of producers, editors, actors, art directors, writers, cinematographers, and composers had on the amazing look, sound, and feel of these youthful films. Subsequent historians in turn often just fiddle with adapting their own list of most pertinent directors rather than provide a more complex picture of the diverse individuals who helped construct the New Wave cinema.

In contrast, I am particularly interested in a historical poetic approach that reexamines how the New Wave has been variously defined by and for film studies and what nouvelle vague really means today. Hence, I test exactly how the original films were made and received. My initial assumption, however, is that the New Wave is more than a list of people. It is a marketing term, as Chabrol notes, and also an « artistic school, » as defined by Michel Marie. But in addition, it comprises changes in economic, social, and technological norms within France in the late 1950s and early 1960s, as well as the narrative contributions from all those new directors making their first feature films in France during these few years, especially 1958­1964. It should also include all the creative personnel who helped make those hundreds of films. Acknowledging the « nouvelle vague spectator » is also a helpful concept since a specific international audience helped ensure that a trickle of new French films led into a mighty wave.

But as I point out in chapter 1, nouvelle vague was initially a blanket term for fundamental social changes that defined an entire post­World War II generation, fifteen to thirty-five years old, who saw themselves as culturally distinct from their parents’ generation. By the time of the first New Wave movies, the term « nouvelle vague » was already being applied to everything from juvenile attitudes to a style of living, including wearing black leather jackets and riding noisy motor scooters around Paris. Defining this generation became a national pastime: between 1955 and 1960 at least thirty different national surveys tried to determine « who is French youth today? » Eventually, nouvelle vague was a label that spun out of control in general social use in France; today in film studies it is a fairly coherent term, though various attempts at pinpointing definitive beginning and end dates and comprehensive lists of traits and participants still generate a wide range of competing opinions.

One important, permeating critical opinion that helped motivate the rise of an alternative, New Wave cinema in the 1950s was the broadly accepted notion that post­World War II French cinema was in a stagnant condition and needed a dramatic overhaul. Pierre Billard, head of the French association of ciné-clubs and editor for Cinéma, wrote a representative editorial in February 1958, titled « Forty under Forty, » which complained about the state of French cinema. He pinned the nation’s hopes on forty young directors who were on the rise, including Louis Malle. Billard’s editorial lamented that the economic prosperity of top French box-office successes seemed to come at the expense of artistic value: « The depletion of inspiration, sterilization of subject matter, and static aesthetic conditions are hard to deny; the rare exceptions . . . in terms of form and subjects are coming from the periphery of French production. . . . The future of French film progress rests with young directors. » Billard’s complaints were echoed in many other sources beyond Cinéma and Cahiers du cinéma. The industry’s weaknesses were perceived to be deeply rooted in its structure, not simply in a cautious, aging body of directors.

Even the professional organizations and unions began to draw criticism for being overly protective and hierarchical, posing rigid barriers against easy entry into film production. Popular discourse regularly referred to the film industry as a « fortress, » a term that evoked patriotic hopes of storming this contemporary Bastille, overthrowing the current regime, and radically dismantling the unfair conditions for participation. Producers were singled out regularly in the press as lacking taste, vision, and daring. Mainstream producers were condemned for relying upon safe big-budget adaptations of historical novels, in lukewarm compromises between 1940s French style and uninspired, run-of-the-mill Hollywood productions. The label « tradition of quality » had initially been the catch phrase of the Centre national de la cinématographie (CNC) in the days immediately after the war. The CNC and the Minister of Culture were trying to foster a stronger French film industry modeled on British and American classical style, but featuring French themes, historical events, and great literature. But by the middle of the 1950s, angry young critics were using the term « tradition of quality » to deride mainstream output. The phrase now connoted old-fashioned costume epics out of touch with modern life.

Among the few high points in French cinema regularly cited by increasingly impatient critics were individual stylists like Robert Bresson and Jacques Tati, both of whom had trouble finding consistent funding for their films. Another area of hope was the production of daring short films, including documentaries like Alain Resnais’s Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog, 1955). That the best directors were in financial trouble, while most innovative young directors, experimenting with form and subject matter, were isolated in the marginal field of short films, was often cited as evidence that French cinema was surely headed in the wrong direction. Moreover, French films were winning fewer and fewer international awards, in contrast to the regained prestige among the Italians. The commercial French cinema was regularly condemned in the popular press as teetering, gasping, and even suffering from hardening of the arteries. Throughout the world, cinema was seen as an important cultural barometer, and it was not lost on the French that, while Japan and Italy were earning greater respect each year, France was floundering. As historian Françoise Audé notes of this era, the connections between a rigid cinematic structure and the fixed social structures behind it were becoming obvious to everyone: « Within an apparently frozen society the cinema is inert. » Michel Marie sums up the situation most concisely, adopting language right out of the 1950s debates: « Aesthetic sclerosis and a solid economic health-this was the condition of French cinema on the eve of the New Wave’s explosion. »

Understanding this general sentiment of a French cinema that had lost its cultural significance and artistic edge helps one appreciate that the arrival of what would be announced as a « wave » of new young directors really was an exciting change and even a victory for journalists and film buffs. Already in January 1959, before the label nouvelle vague was even being applied to the cinema, the official publication of the CNC, Le Film français, was ecstatic to report that 1958 had seen a sudden spike in the number of features by first-time directors. They cited films just finished or in production by Louis Malle, Michel Deville, Pierre Kast, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, and others. More importantly, they foresaw the slate of new features continuing to grow in the new year: « The year 1959 promises the arrival of many new directors. We wish them success and hope they can return the heartfelt youthful vigor our cinema seems to have lately abandoned, but that not long ago permitted our number one ranking in the world. However, it is not by stirring the mud that one makes it go away. Better to ignore it. » When Le Film rançais, the voice for the entire French film industry, suggests that current mainstream productions are equivalent to hearts that have stopped beating and mud that is tainting everything it touches, changes in the cinema take on urgent importance. This sort of public scolding of the status quo was highly unusual, and some even considered it unpatriotic. Le Film français, Cinéma 58, and Cahiers du cinéma were hardly alone in condemning current practice, however, and they, along with daily newspapers and even the Minister of Culture, helped set the stage to welcome newcomers with open arms. The result of all the complaining was to prepare an environment in which change, whether radical or restrained, would be supported and encouraged. New talent came on the scene with a sense of confidence and purpose, trying to deliver the new stories and styles that might save the French cinema from oldfashioned complacency.

But it was more than the critical atmosphere and a shift in taste from carefully crafted historical dramas that helped pave the way for the New Wave. New technological and economic factors as well rewarded fresh ideas and productions. Thus, while this study remains focused on the growth of the New Wave into a strong and varied force, it devotes as much attention to specific generating mechanisms within French culture as to the creative individual auteurs who took advantage of the changing conditions. For instance, while every history of the New Wave, no matter how concise, credits François Truffaut’s Les 400 coups (The 400 Blows, 1959) with helping launch the movement, that film’s history should not be limited to Truffaut’s personal style, based on his critical past and cinéphilia. Although Truffaut’s best director award and huge financial success at the Cannes Film Festival in 1959 accelerated the New Wave’s growth, the fact that the French franc had lost 20 percent of its value the previous month had an equally important impact. Thus, the international success of French films in 1959 and 1960 was sped along by a better exchange rate for foreign distributors, who could now get an excellent deal on already cheap movies. Small operators like Irvin Shapiro of Films Around the World could subsequently afford the American rights to movies like Godard’s Breathless. France has always had a strong influx of young individual stylists entering its filmmaking ranks; what makes the New Wave era so special is not so much the rare quality of some of these newcomers but rather the conditions that allowed so many untried people to get a chance at directing feature films within such a short amount of time. The reason that a « wave » rather than simply a new cohort of directors came upon the scene around 1960 is not just a matter of strong personalities. It is the result of an unusual set of circumstances that enabled a dynamic group of young directors to exploit a wide range of conditions that opened up incredible opportunities for inexpensive filmmaking in Paris. Beyond the historical, social, economic, and technological contexts that affected these marvelous movies, I am ultimately concerned with the resulting narrative innovations. French theater and literature were already changing dramatically during the 1950s, and their shifts away from pre­World War II concerns toward more modern, often theoretically influenced modes of presentation strongly affected the personnel as well as the audiences of nouvelle vague films. Increasingly, narrative experimentation was combined with a renewed interest in telling stories for a younger generation or at least from their perspective. New, sexier themes and actors showed up in important films in the 1950s, such as Roger Vadim’s color spectacle, Et Dieu créa la femme (And God Created Woman, 1956), which featured a daring new representative of amoral female sexuality, Brigitte Bardot. Yet there were also very challenging intellectual movies like Marcel Hanoun’s 16 mm Une histoire simple (A Simple Story, 1958), which concerned a single mother fallen on hard times and was supposedly produced for less than one thousand dollars. The 1950s were rich in storytelling alternatives, some of which were much more influential than others on the core of young directors who would become known as the New Wave filmmakers.

The overall sample of New Wave directors featured in this study is necessarily narrower than the scores of directors who could be said to fit the movement. But I have chosen to concentrate on the rise of the New Wave and examine social forces and influential trends in film criticism as well as the practical influence of exemplary production models provided by Alexandre Astruc, Jean-Pierre Melville, and Agnès Varda. In that way I flesh out rather than remake the canonical list of significant precursors. I then turn to Roger Vadim and Louis Malle, two directors who provide essential narrative and production blueprints for subsequent young directors to copy, revise, or reject. Finally, I take up the core Cahiers du cinéma directors, reconsidering their careers and analyzing key films in relation to the many factors that helped shape and determine their movies. Significantly, I also reexamine pertinent financial information on their films, which is occasionally surprising and should raise questions about why some histories have privileged one Cahiers critic-turned-director over another. For instance, while Chabrol, Truffaut, and Godard were clearly central to the New Wave as it was understood by 1960, Eric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette were considered marginal. Cahiers founder and critic Jacques Doniol-Valcroze and his friend, Cahiers critic Pierre Kast, made their first features in the late 1950s as well, and both Doniol-Valcrozes’s L’eau à la bouche (A Game for Six Lovers, 1959) and Kast’s Le bel âge (1958) proved more successful than the first features by Rohmer and Rivette. Thus after detailing the production and narrative strategies that distinguished Rohmer’s and Rivette’s early careers, I also investigate Doniol-Valcroze and Kast, moving them back into the New Wave subcategory where they belong, as active members of the Cahiers critics turned-directors.

Rather than an encyclopedic account of who is or is not in the nouvelle vague, this history investigates the conditions that gave rise to the phenomenon and the definitions that resulted. I have chosen to discuss films that were integral to the fervor of the New Wave, especially those that shared a role in revitalizing film language as well as motivating further experiments in film. The bulk of the book remains organized around directors, since this was an auteur-centered era, with individual directors struggling hard to devise their own personal styles while fighting for the economic means to remain as independent as possible. Nonetheless, whenever possible this study reminds the reader that these movies are not one-person shows, for all directors depended upon friends, producers, actors, editors, cinematographers, and composers, among others, to get their films made; the characteristic nouvelle vague look was produced by groups of people working within specific small, minimally industrial teams. Limiting the scope of this book allows for a valuable depth of historical and narrative analysis that will, I hope, inspire others to reinvestigate some of the hundreds of worthy New Wave films not touched on here. The so-called Left Bank Group warrants its own book-length study to reinvestigate the production, reception, and narrative strategies of Resnais, Varda, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Chris Marker, and Jacques Demy in particular.

For the purposes of this history, the New Wave should be seen as a large cinematic phenomenon that includes the earliest signs of changes in the industry (such as Vadim and Malle’s films and the new Film Aid rules); the first successful new, younger directors and their films (Chabrol, Truffaut, and Godard, among others); the talented pool of bold producers, actors, editors, and cinematographers; but also the « wave » of first-time directors, working hard to get their films finished and into domestic and international distribution. The New Wave is precisely a wave of productions, some very successful, some now forgotten, and some demonstrating the risk of failure that always faces new, youthful experiments in narrative film. But what finally makes the New Wave’s significance so enduring is that it has marked all French film production ever since. No one looks to Germany for a revival of expressionism. No one would expect Italy this year to explode with a new era of pure neorealism, but every French film is to a certain degree measured against the New Wave, and not a year goes by without some critic somewhere asking whether two particularly interesting young French directors might not be the harbingers of another nouvelle vague. Would that they were.

A few explanations concerning the book’s overall format might prove helpful. I have tried to reduce the number of French phrases whenever possible in the interest of clarity and readability, though certain terms that have become part of the standard vocabulary of film studies, such as auteur, mise-en-scène, and cinephile, are used frequently. Film titles are given in original French on initial citations and their American, and occasionally British, release titles are also included. Subsequent references are typically made with the English-language title, especially if that name s very commonly used already in survey histories of French cinema. For instance, The 400 Blows has been more widely used than Les 400 coups (and it is much easier for non-French speakers to pronounce), so I employ the translated title most of the time. Films released abroad with their French title, such as Hiroshima, mon amour, are rare. Unless otherwise noted, all translations from French sources are mine.

The illustrations from the movies are all frame enlargements shot directly off the films, not inaccurate publicity stills. Those images that may appear a bit compressed, such as frames from The 400 Blows and Malle’s Les amants (The Lovers, 1958), are from anamorphic wide-screen prints. Since the book is aimed at intermediate-level film students who have already been exposed to introductory film analysis and perhaps the basics of film history but not necessarily the concepts and vocabulary of the most daunting of film theory, I have endeavored to minimize unnecessary jargon; I hope the resulting format proves clear and convincing. The ultimate hope for this overview, of course, is to generate renewed interest among French film fans, motivating the reader to go back to lesser-known films by favorite directors or, better yet, to retest assumptions about films that may have disappointed in the past. The New Wave may have officially ended in 1964, but while many observers continue to search for other New Waves on the horizon, it proves just as fruitful to return attention to the scores of films that created all the furor in the first place. There is nothing like rediscovering a nouvelle vague masterpiece and remembering why it is one does film history in the first place. »—Richard Neupert

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