Sunday, August 08, 2010

La nouvelle vague

The value of the New Wave as a laboratory in which to make first attempts and the accompanying mistakes is the more evident when one realizes that success under the New Wave banner is often followed by disavowal of association with the movement. This fact places the subject in its proper light: The New Wave is not a school of cinematic theory but rather a 'fail safe' for innovators and rank newcomers. As such it has conspicuous worth.

The outlook of these young directors is indeed youthful. Their panorama is that of the 'inward looking eye'. This takes the form of analytical examination of the world around them. Often they are unimpressed by what they see. They are accused of pessimism and lack of faith, but theirs is an essentially relevant comment on today's world, brought to life with a lyricism which, were the subjects of less gravity, would approach romanticism.

Constantly condemned is the frank treatment of sex in films hailed as New Wave masterpieces. However can it be denied that sex is a part of social existence, and can it be held that any area of society is too sacred for mature criticism and elucidation?

Most often the protest expressed in films of the New Wave is directed against complacency and inhumanity. The criticism is of accepted compromise, of insincerity, of shallowness, as these are manifest in the unthinkingness of ordinary people. This has impact, and the viewer may resent it if it comes too close to home. The security of habit is assaulted and to save face and preserve self respect the threatened audience must make its own protest.

Here, then, is censorship.

To discount the validity of the criticism directed against himself, the viewer in turn must criticize. And his protest is directed against the obvious - against the sex.

16 June 1960, "Aspects" column in The SMU Campus, student newspaper of Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas.

At the time the writer was reeling from his first exposure to Truffaut, Chabrol and Godard, then twenty-somethings and so bold in the context of the Texas of half-a-century ago! There were protests from the audience at the cinema I was working at!

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