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Influence of the French New Wave on Contemporary Cinema Essay

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This essay is about the influence of the French-New Wave on contemporary cinema. It begins by the brief introduction to French-New Wave, of which the influence on will emerge without strain in the process of analysis.


From time to time, filmmakers, film critics, and film buffs will make references to a period in film history known as the French New Wave. For some people this is a term to throw out just to sound impressive, while for others it carries inspiration and significance, representing a defining moment of cinematic individuality and innovation. [1] French New Wave was a term often associated with a group French filmmakers of the late 1950s and 1960s, marked by their self-conscious rejection of classical cinematic form and their spirit of youthful iconoclasm.

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Through their immersion in French cine-clubs, they became exposed to Italian Neorealism and classical Hollywood cinema, which offered an alternative to what they saw to be a decline in French cinema. Voicing their opinions together as film critics, they rebelled against the mainstream cinematic trend, which in post-war conditions had fallen back on old traditional and heavily reliant on novellic adaptations and the notion of a “cinema of quality”. French New Wave made films in many different genres often abandoning normal narrative conventions. Utilizing of real locations, improvised scripts, natural lighting and hand held cameras, they created a look that was distinctive, formulating their own sense of realism. [2] One example of this style is in Breathless, where there is a scene in which Michel and Patricia walk down a street as Paticia sells copies of the New York Herald Tribune.

This scene was filmed using a concealed camera, with common pedestrian walking into frame and interacting with the characters. The innovative ways of cutting production costs added a spontaneous feel to the film, as well as the increase sense of realism. Like any film movement, the new wave explored many of the same common themes. These themes included loneliness, a self-awareness of cinema, the nature of memory and the past, and the quick and sometimes violent nature of love. More often than not, characters in the new wave films were ultimately alone by the ends of the movie. For example, in Breathless, Michel gets shot in the back and is left running and struggling by himself until he dies on the street.

Another theme that arises often in the movement is the quick and violent nature of love. Characters fall in and out of love with each other easily, most likely to minimize the dialogue of building their love. Almost out of nowhere does Michel claim to love Patricia in Breathless. However, while the new wave films may claim to have an affinity for quick love affairs, they almost always never answer the history of the characters; to how long have they loved each other, we may never discover.


The effects of the new wave movement are far and wide. The films that sprung out of it gained international fame.

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