Cinema Studies students: Section 001 / class # 23039
Outside students: Section 002 / class # 23040
This course offers an historical and critical overview of the French New Wave. Along with examining the philosophical underpinnings of the movement in philosophical existentialism (Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir), the artistic underpinnings in modernism, and the theoretical underpinnings in the film theory/criticism of Cahiers du Cinema, we will examine key films and directors. We will explore the work of the three core groups that together formed the New Wave, notably 1) the Cahiers critic-directors (Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol, Rivette, Rohmer); 2) the Left Bank directors (Resnais, Duras, Varda, Marker); and 3) Cinema Verite (Jean Rouch, Edgar Morin), along with 4) precursors like Jean-Pierre Melville and Roger Vadim, and 5) mavericks like Jacques Demy and Louis Malle. While we will focus largely on the films themselves, we will also situate New Wave films within a broader artistic, historical, and social context. Some key themes in the course will be: first-person auteur cinema; artistic modernism and the New Wave; the relation between film and the other arts; the revolution in film language; the question of adaptation; treatment of love, romance, and adultery; representations of race, gender and sexuality; the theory of style and aesthetics; the impact of Brecht; the hauntologies of war, collaboration, and colonialism; and the political changes, reflected in film, that led to the near-revolution of May 1968 and to dramatic changes in the film world.
The course will approach the New Wave through 1) the screening of a chronologically arranged series of feature films, mainly from the key 1958-1968 period; 2) the reading of critical and theoretical texts; and 3) the analysis of short clips from other films by the major directors or related to broader cultural themes. The goal of the course is for students to gain an overall sense of the historical importance and social resonances of the New Wave, an awareness of the characteristic styles and themes of the key directors, and an understanding of some of the theories that circulated around such films.