The Cahiers du Cinema Directors

Although opinions differ as to which directors belong in the Nouvelle Vague and which don’t, all are agreed that the five directors (Claude Chabrol, Francois TruffautJean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette) who wrote for Cahiers du Cinema, are the core of the movement. The following is a selection of key films by members of this group which defined the New Wave during its heyday. 

Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows, 1959)

Francois Truffaut

This smash hit of the 1959 Cannes Film Festival may not have technically been the first New Wave movie, but it was the first to gain widespread attention and is often cited as the real beginning of the Nouvelle Vague. Truffaut drew on inspiration from his own troubled childhood for this classic story of youthful rebellion.


À Bout De Souffle (Breathless, 1960)

Jean-Luc Godard

In one of the most audacious directorial debuts in 
film history, Godard redefines the rules of cinematic storytelling in this thrilling homage to American gangster flicks which made a star of Jean-Paul Belmondo and continues to influence film and fashion.

Tirez Sur Le Pianiste (Shoot the Piano Player, 1960)

 Francois Truffaut

Comedy and tragedy go hand in hand in Truffaut’s eloquent and playful homage to Film Noir. In the lead role Charles Aznavour is brilliant as Charlie, the washed up pianist, who is forced to face up to the past he has tried to forget, when his gangster brother comes to the bar where he works one night.

Les Bonnes Femmes (The Good Girls,1960) 

Claude Chabrol

New Wave realism meets Hitchcockian suspense in this compelling drama chronicling the lives and loves of four Parisian shop girls over the course of several days. The unsentimental portrayal of contemporary young women proved too distressing for some and the film provoked a backlash which saw Chabrol retreat into more escapist material until the late 60s.

Jules et Jim (Jules and Jim, 1962)

Francois Truffaut

Truffaut’s enduring masterpiece is a captivating story of love and friendship between three people over the course of twenty-five years. A stylistically thrilling work of cinema, brimming with charm, full of innovative storytelling techniques, and running the gamut of emotions, from joie de vivre to tragedy.

Vivre Sa Vie (My Life to Live, 1962)

Jean-Luc Godard

Twelve Brechtian tableaux chronicle the life and death of a young woman, beginning as a cinema verite documentary and ending as a Monogram style B movie. A fierce critique of consumerism in which people become just another commodity to be bought and sold.

Le Mépris (Contempt, 1963)

Jean-Luc Godard
Brigitte Bardot gives one of her best performances in Godard’s emotionally raw account of a marital break up set against the intrigues of the international film industry. With its beautiful soundtrack by Georges Delarue, and sumptuous Mediterranean colours, it has the weight and resonance of classical tragedy.

Bande à Part (Band of Outlaws, 1964)

Jean-Luc Godard
Anna Karina teams up with a couple of petty crooks played by Sami Frey and Claude Brasseur in this freewheeling crime caper thriller set in and around the streets of Paris. This is one of Godard’s most playful movies, full of off the cuff invention and memorable set pieces.

Alphaville (1965) 

Jean-Luc Godard
Science-fiction and film noir collide in the bizarre city of Alphaville where free thought and individualist concepts like love, poetry, and emotion have been eliminated. Can secret agent Lemmy Caution fulfil his mission to kill Professor Von Braun and destroy the evil computer Alpha 60?

Pierrot Le Fou (1965) 

Jean-Luc Godard
One of Godard’s greatest achievements, this pulp-noir anti-thriller has been described as cinematic Cubism Shot in dazzling primary colours and loaded with references to literature, painting, other movies and pop culture, Pierrot Le Fou is, amongst other things, about the struggles of the artist, Vietnam, and the death of romance.

Le Boucher (The Butcher, 1970)

 Claude Chabrol
A village schoolteacher begins to suspect that her close friend, the local butcher, might enjoy carving up more than steak and porkchops. Widely considered Chabrol's greatest work, this Hitchcock-inspired thriller is rich in both authentic atmosphere and nerve-jangling suspense.


The Left Bank Group
Although the Cahiers du Cinema directors became the most celebrated members of the Nouvelle Vague, there was another loose contingent of brilliant and highly original filmmakers who were also associated with the movement. This was the Rive Gauche or Left Bank Movement whose core members included Chris Marker, Alain Resnais and Agnes Varda. These filmmakers had backgrounds in documentary and literature, an interest in experimental storytelling, and an identification with the political left. (Although it is worth noting that the label "Left Bank" was constructed by journalists years after the fact. At the time the friends did not consider themselves part of any group). Other associates of the movement included Alain Robbe-GrilletMarguerite DurasHenri Colpi, and, by virtue of his marriage to Agnes Varda, the colorful Jacques Demy

Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) 

Alain Resnais

An intense love affair between a French actress and a Japanese architect in postwar Hiroshima leads to painful revelations about past love and wartime suffering. A highly original and visually stunning masterwork from Resnais.

La Jetée (The Pier, 1962) 

Chris Marker
In a post-apocalyptical world a man is chosen to undergo a time-travel experiment by virtue of his one enduring childhood memory: a woman’s face at the end of the pier at Orly airport. Once seen this unique film is never forgotten. The inspiration for Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys.

Innovators, Mavericks and Inheritors

Before the phrase was ever invented, there was in fact already a "new wave" of directors in France breaking with the traditional modes of production and setting an example that others would follow. Although vastly different in both content and style, the films of directors such as Jean-Pierre Melville, Jean RouchLouis Malle and Alexandre Astruc were visionary and innovative. Later these directors became associated with the Nouvelle Vague movement, although some of them, such as Jean-Pierre Melville, rejected the label.
After the New Wave became a success, a whole new generation of filmmakers in France were inspired to follow their example. Over 20 directors released their first films in 1959 and this number doubled in the following year. In 1962, a special edition of Cahiers du Cinema was released in which 162 new French Filmmakers were listed. Inevitably many have not stood the test of time, however the best of them went on to have long and enduring careers.

Et Dieu... Créa la Femme (And God Created Woman, 1956) 

Roger Vadim
Vadim’s directorial debut broke box office records and censorship taboos in its teasing display of sex and eroticism in Saint-Tropez. Its success launched the career of Brigitte Bardot and gave independent producers the confidence to back the up-coming films of the New Wave


Le Feu Follet (The Fire Within, 1963)

Louis Malle
A melancholic study of a self-destructive writer who resolves to kill himself and spends the next twenty-four hours trying to reconnect with a host of wayward friends. Maurice Ronet gives an outstanding performance as Alain who has spent his life “waiting for something to happen”, but refuses to accept the compromises of adulthood.

Un Homme et une Femme (A Man and a Woman,1966) 

Claude Lelouch
Claude Lelouch scored an award-winning international hit with this eloquent love story which became famous for it’s lush visuals, the performances of its two leads Anouk Aimee and Jean-Louis Trintignant, and its unforgettable musical theme.

Le Samourai (1967)

Jean-Pierre Melville

Alain Delon is the ultimate existential loner in Jean-Pierre Melville’s ultra-cool crime classic. Combining 1940s American gangster films and 1960’s French pop culture with Japanese warrior philosophy, Melville’s hip, stylish thriller has often been imitated but never bettered.

Jean-Pierre Melville: Life and Work of a  Groundbreaking Filmmaking Poet >>>



Les Quatre Cents coups Dossier pédagogique>>>

Popular Posts