Sunday, May 23, 2010

New Waves and Young Cinemas, 1958- 1967

The New Wave period between 1958- 1967 is quite possibly the most exciting period of cinema for me. Modernist approach seemed to take over across the world, and the films released between this time were artistically and politically challenging. For the first time, many young directors emerged with either the benefit of film criticism or film school. Newer approaches in cinema style were being tested, either in editing (Godard’s jump cuts), cinematography (Raoul Coutard’s noir influenced photography), directing (Antonioni’s director’s gaze), storytelling (Truffaut’s autobiographical Antoine Doinel series), choreography (Demy’s poetic and lyrical musicals), and characterization (U.K.’s brooding social melodramas). This period defined artistic stylizations, that would pave the way as well as reshapening Hollywood in the 70s.

Film History’s Chapter 20 breaks down the different countries contributions to this period of filmmaking. The most written about directors of this period seem to stem from France, and quite a few of the directors got their start writing for Cahiers du cinema. Truffaut and Godard also tend to be the poster boys of this movement, yet I’ll add that it was Claude Chabrol who produced the first film of the bunch (subsequently he’s made the most films) and yet his strongest work tends to start at around 1967 and continued until the early 70s. Due to DVD releases, Eric Rohmer’s Moral Tales series has gained more admirers recently, yet Jacques Rivette’s work is curiously impossible to find (Rivette’s 1971, 773 minute “Out 1″ is an absolute Holy Grail for me). The wonderful Agnes Varda has been gaining newer admirers as well, as she continues to create ground breaking work.

One director that undeservedly gets little attention is Polish filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski. Skolimowski’s Identification Marks: None, Walkover, Barriers, Le Depart, and Deep End are all amazing films that challenge sexuality, politics and obsession. Yet to this date none of his early films have had either VHS or DVD releases, leaving one to wait for a retrospective at an arthouse cinema (Anthology Film Archives finally had one a couple of years ago which was amazing!) Skolimowski’s first three films challenged Poland’s political state, which inadvertantly halted the release of one of his films (“Hand’s Up”) for nearly 10 years. He’s a director that should be evaluated a little bit more.

This is a really fascinating time for cinema that I urge everyone to check out.

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