The Freedom New Wave.
Ah, the French New Wave. It comes up time and time again on this website, as it does with any critic’s hack reviews. Generally, critics use a New Wave comparison in the rare instances where the film they’re reviewing doesn’t follow the exact plot structure of Rambo 3, and they’re too lazy to pinpoint the exact cause. So they just wave their hands dismissively, mutter something about European sensibilities, and light another cigarette. A definition of the style of the New Wave is hard to come by. Some say it’s a cinema that rejected the conventions and styles of traditional film forms, embraced the authorial theory of film criticism, and utilized new innovations in camera technology to make movies free from traditional studio constraints. Others say that they were just trying to make American films but didn’t want to get out of bed before noon, so everything looks like a lazy and pale imitation of a Hollywood picture. I firmly believe that this difference of opinion doesn’t come down to which critic you ask, but rather what film you watch.
Cleo From 5 to 7 falls into the latter category of French New Wave. Directed by Agnes Varda, the film follows the titular character between the titular afternoon hours, as she waits to get test results from the doctor. Cleo starts the film off a rich, spoiled brat, and ends up finding both love and a certain joie de vivre. Replace the protagonist with Jimmy Stewart, and this could have been a Frank Capra movie, if he’d cut his teeth making crappy tour diaries of his friends’ band instead of filming war documentaries. The choppy and rough editing style is fresh, to be sure, but I’m not sure if it services the saccharine plot nor the real-time aesthetic. Nevertheless, it is distinctive, and if that’s your sole criterion for watching films, then you should be pleased. If not, just wait for Rambo 4.
OTHER MAJOR DIRECTORS OF THE FRENCH NEW WAVE:
Jean-Luc Godard: A true innovator, Godard broke the mold with his film Breathless, which told a classic Hollywood gangster story with all the boring bits cut out.. Thanks for bringing Attention Deficit Disorder into the mainstream, Jean-Luc. Darren Aronofsky really appreciates it.
Francois Truffaut: Truffaut made a series of sweet but sad films about growing up in Paris, like The 400 Blows or Love on the Run. He’s sort of like the sad clown of the French New Wave, only without a sense of irony, so watching his films is like reading high school poetry about ex-boyfriends.
Claude Chabrol: All of the French New Wave guys really liked Hitchcock, but none so much as Chabrol, who pattered his career after the great suspense master, in that he made one movie a hundred times. That movie was about adultery and murder, and starred Stephane Audran. Apparently some variety of mind-flayer, Chabrol sucked all the irony out of Truffaut and injected it into his own films, making his movies seem like the cool kids who sat in the back row of film class and snickered at all the sappy parts in Summertime.
Eric Rohmer: I don’t think I’ve actually seen any Eric Rohmer films, so you’ll have to fill in your own irreverent commentary. It’s easy. First, start by describing his entire oevre with a massive generalization based upon a vague remembrance of a film you might have seen a few years ago on PBS. Then, insert a derogatory remark based upon a cultural stereotype of the French. Add an obscure reference or brief but incisive comment that indicates your ignorance and flippant attitude are affectations rather than a function of low IQ, and essentially invalidates your previous remarks. Cook, uncovered, for 24 hours, or until the site traffic meter falls to a respectable level.