Nouvelle Vague 

Table of Contents

The Nouvelle Vague (French for “New Wave”) was a French film movement of the 1950s and 1960s that had a major impact on the films history. The movement arose as a reaction against traditional French cinema and sought to create a new style of filmmaking.

The directors of the Nouvelle Vague used innovative techniques, such as the use of a handheld camera, natural light and the use of non-professional actors. Instead of following traditional narrative conventions, their films often featured non-linear stories, jumping back and forth in time.

Some of the most notable directors of the Nouvelle Vague include Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Jacques Rivette, Eric Rohmer and Agnes Varda. Many of their films have explored themes such as love, loneliness and alienation.

One of the most important films of the Nouvelle Vague is “The Four Hundred Blows” by Truffaut, which marked the beginning of the movement. Other notable films include Godard’s Breathless, Jean Eustache’s Mother and the Whore, and Agnes Varda’s Cléo from 5 to 7.

The Nouvelle Vague has influenced many filmmakers around the world and paved the way for new forms of independent cinema. The movement is considered an important milestone in the history of French and world cinema, and among the works of the Nouvelle Vague there are many must-see movie.

Characteristics of the Nouvelle Vague

Nouvelle Vague 

The Nouvelle Vague was a French cinematic movement of the 1950s and 1960s characterized by a series of technical and narrative innovations that revolutionized French and international cinema. Some of the major characteristics of the Nouvelle Vague include:

Use of Handheld Camera: New Wave filmmakers often used handheld cameras to create a sense of immediacy and realism in their films.

Use of natural light: Filmmakers have often used natural light to create a realistic and authentic atmosphere in their films.

Non-Linear Stories: Nouvelle Vague films often feature non-linear stories, jumping back and forth in time and using ellipsis to create a sense of mystery and suspense.

Non-Professional Actors: Many of the Nouvelle Vague directors used non-professional actors to create a sense of realism in their films.

Existential themes: Nouvelle Vague films often explore existential themes such as love, loneliness, alienation and the search for meaning in life.

Formal experimentation: Nouvelle Vague filmmakers often experimented with new narrative forms and editing techniques, breaking with the conventions of traditional cinema.

Social and political criticism: Many of the Nouvelle Vague films were critical of French society at the time and addressed important social and political issues.

Overall, the Nouvelle Vague was a highly influential movement that pioneered new forms of independent cinema and had a lasting impact on the history of cinema and french cinema.

Where Does the Term Nouvelle Vague Come From?

The term “Nouvelle Vague” (French for “New Wave”) was coined by French film critic François Giroud in 1957, in reference to a new movement of French filmmakers that was emerging at the time. The term was inspired by the Literary Nouvelle Vague, a French literary movement of the 1950s characterized by an experimental attitude towards fiction.

The term Nouvelle Vague was used to describe a group of young French filmmakers who were breaking with the conventions of traditional French cinema at the time. These directors had a very different vision of cinema from their predecessors and were trying to create a new style of making cinema which was more spontaneous, realistic and experimental.

The term Nouvelle Vague has become a label for a number of French directors including Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Éric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, Agnès Varda and others. While the movement has often been associated with France, its influences have extended internationally, influencing filmmakers around the world.

The Protagonists of the Nouvelle Vague

The protagonists of the Nouvelle Vague were a group of French filmmakers who revolutionized French and international cinema in the 1950s and 1960s. These directors they created a new style of filmmaking that has had a lasting impact on the history of cinema.

Some of the most notable directors of the Nouvelle Vague include:

Jean-Luc Godard: One of the most important directors of the Nouvelle Vague, Godard created films such as “Breathless” (À bout de souffle) and “Week-end”, which have become classics of French cinema.

François Truffaut: One of the most important exponents of the Nouvelle Vague, Truffaut created films such as “The Four Hundred Blows” (Les quatre cents coups) and “Love at Twenty” (L’amour à vingt ans).

Jacques Rivette: Another important director of the Nouvelle Vague, Rivette created films such as “The religious” (La religieuse) and “Céline and Julie go by boat” (Céline et Julie vont en bateau).

Éric Rohmer: Known for his films characterized by intelligent and subtle dialogues, Rohmer created films such as “Suzanne’s career” (La carrière de Suzanne) and “Nights of the full moon” (Les nuits de la pleine lune).

Claude Chabrol: One of the most prolific directors of the Nouvelle Vague, Chabrol created films such as “The Knife in the Wound” (Le couteau dans la plaie) and “The Woman Who Sings” (La femme qui chante).

Agnès Varda: One of the few women to emerge in the Nouvelle Vague, Varda created films such as “Cléo from 5 to 7” (Cléo de 5 à 7) and “Without roof or law” (Sans toit ni loi).

These directors often worked together, exchanging ideas and collaborating on projects, and helped create a new vision of French and international cinema.

Andrea Bazin and Cahiers du Cinema


André Bazin was one of the most influential film critics of the 20th century and played a key role in the creation of the New Wave. Bazin was the founder and editor of the magazine Cahiers du cinéma, which has become one of the most important film magazines in France and in the world.

Bazin contributed significantly to the creation of a new form of film criticism, which was less concerned with the moral evaluation of films and more focused on the aesthetic and technical analysis of the film medium. Bazin argued that cinema should be treated as an autonomous art form and promoted the idea that cinema could be used to express the personal vision of filmmakers.

Cahiers du cinéma magazine, founded by Bazin in 1951, helped spread the ideas of the Nouvelle Vague and helped create a community of filmmakers and film critics who were interested in exploring the possibilities of the cinematic medium. Among the magazine’s contributors were many of the directors who would go on to become stars of the Nouvelle Vague, including François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette and Éric Rohmer.

Bazin was a big believer in the New Wave and wrote rave reviews of films by emerging New Wave directors. It also helped young filmmakers secure funding and support for their films, and helped create a cultural climate in which auteur cinema could flourish.

In summary, André Bazin and the Cahiers du cinéma magazine were crucial elements in the development of the Nouvelle Vague, and their impact on French and international cinema was enormous.

Why Does the Nouvelle Vague End?

Alain Resnais

The Nouvelle Vague does not have a precise “end”, but it can be said that its influence gradually faded over the course of the 1960s. Many directors associated with the Nouvelle Vague continued to make films after the 1960s, but their style and vision of cinema changed.

There was a series of events that contributed to the end of the Nouvelle Vague era, including the rising cost of film production, changing audience tastes, and growing competition with American cinema. Additionally, many of the directors associated with the Nouvelle Vague had difficulty obtaining funding for their films due to their artistic and experimental visions.

Despite this, the Nouvelle Vague left a lasting imprint on French and international cinema, and its influence can still be felt today. His style of independent and experimental cinema has influenced generations of filmmakers around the world, and his films are still loved and studied for their technical and artistic innovation. Furthermore, many of the directors associated with the Nouvelle Vague became icons of French and international cinema and continued to make films of great cultural and artistic impact even after the end of the Nouvelle Vague era.

What is the Legacy of the Nouvelle Vague?

The legacy of the Nouvelle Vague is still evident in cinema today and has had a lasting impact on the form and content of contemporary cinema.

One of the major contributions of the Nouvelle Vague was the creation of a new cinematic language, which broke with the conventions of traditional cinema and paved the way for greater creative freedom. This has allowed filmmakers to explore new shooting, editing and storytelling techniques, pushing the boundaries of the cinematic medium and giving rise to new forms of artistic expression.

Furthermore, the Nouvelle Vague introduced a new generation of independent filmmakers and paved the way for auteur cinema. It has also helped create a new audience for cinema, interested in films that explore social and political issues in innovative ways.

Today, auteur cinema and independent cinema are still very popular and there are numerous filmmakers who continue to explore the possibilities of the cinematic medium, borrowing techniques and ideas from the Nouvelle Vague. Furthermore, many of the directors associated with the Nouvelle Vague, such as Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut and Alain Resnais, have become icons of French and international cinema and continue to be studied and admired for their contributions to the history of cinema.

Finally, the Nouvelle Vague has also influenced popular culture in general, in addition to cinema. The fashion, music and visual art of the 1960s were influenced by the Nouvelle Vague, resulting in a new aesthetic that has continued to inspire subsequent generations.


Nouvelle Vague: the Movies Not to Be Missed

Here is a list of the most important films of the Nouvelle Vague to see absolutely:

Handsome Serge (1958)

“Le Beau Serge” is a 1958 French film written and directed by Claude Chabrol, considered one of the first films of the French “Nouvelle Vague”.

The film is set in a small village in central France, where François (played by Jean-Claude Brialy), a young man from Paris, returns to visit his childhood friend Serge (played by Gérard Blain), who lives in a dilapidated house with his wife Yvonne (played by Michèle Méritz). François finds Serge deeply depressed, alcoholic and dissatisfied with life, and tries to help him find a way out of his sadness.

“Le Beau Serge” is a very interesting film because it represents the way in which the Nouvelle Vague tried to renew the French cinema of the 50s, introducing a new narrative and visual style. Chabrol uses techniques such as hand-held camera and choppy editing to create an atmosphere of realism and intimacy in the story.

Furthermore, the film deals with important themes such as depression, alcoholism, loneliness and disillusionment, providing a reflection on the human condition and the difficulty of finding meaning in life. Serge’s character represents the alienation and disappointment of people living in isolated small villages, while François’ character symbolizes the aspiration for freedom and independence.

The 400 Blows (1959)

It is a 1959 film directed by Francois Truffaut, considered one of the masterpieces of French cinema and of the Nouvelle Vague.

The film tells the story of Antoine Doinel, a 14-year-old boy who lives in a turbulent family who is dissatisfied with his life. When he starts stealing, he gets put in reform school and then runs away. Following his escape, Antoine wanders around Paris and befriends other boys. However, his situation becomes increasingly desperate.

The film was critically acclaimed and won the Best Director Award at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival. The film was also considered a manifesto of the Nouvelle Vague, a French cinematic movement of the 1950s and 1960s that redefined the language of cinema through formal experimentation and attention to characters and everyday reality.

The film was also a commercial success and launched the career of actor Jean-Pierre Léaud, who played Antoine Doinel and went on to work with Truffaut in many other films, becoming an icon of the Nouvelle Vague.


Sign of the Lion (1959)

It is a 1962 film directed by Eric Rohmer, which is his first feature film.

The film is set in Paris in the summer of 1957 and tells the story of Pierre Wesserlin, a middle-aged American musician who lives in Paris. Pierre has recently lost his last relative, an aunt who bequeathed him a large amount of money. However, when he tries to collect the inheritance, he discovers that the money has already been spent by his aunt to cover his debts, leaving him with nothing.

Pierre’s financial situation then becomes very precarious and he finds himself forced to ask his Parisian friends for help. However, they seem uninterested in his difficulties and suggest that he sell his possessions to survive.

The film is an accurate portrayal of the life of an artist struggling to maintain his independence and integrity in a world that seems uninterested in his struggles. The character of Pierre is masterfully played by Jean-Louis Trintignant, who manages to convey the protagonist’s anguish and despair through his interpretation.

The film is considered one of Rohmer’s most important films and a seminal work of 1960s French cinema. The film also represents an example of arthouse cinema, characterized by its attention to detail and the psychology of the characters, rather than special effects or action.

Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)

“Hiroshima mon amour” is a 1959 film directed by the French director Alain Resnais and written by Marguerite Duras. The film is considered one of the masterpieces of the French Nouvelle Vague and is a cinematic work of art that explores the emotional and psychological consequences of the atomic bomb on people.

The film tells the story of a young French actress (Emmanuelle Riva) who visits Hiroshima to shoot a film about peace. During her stay, she meets a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada) and the two begin a love affair. As they get to know each other better, she reveals her past as a young Frenchman who had an affair with a German soldier during the Nazi occupation, a story he finds hard to accept.

The film is known for its non-linear narrative structure and the use of innovative editing techniques. The director uses a series of flashbacks to show the woman’s experiences during the war and images of Hiroshima after the atomic explosion. These sequences were shot in black and white and are juxtaposed with the color images of the present.

“Hiroshima mon amour” was enthusiastically received by critics and won the Jury Prize at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival. The film is considered a masterpiece of French cinema and had a strong influence on the New Wave. It was also an important turning point in the history of cinema as it introduced a new form of cinematic storytelling that influenced many subsequent filmmakers.

The Cousins (1959)

It is a film by the French director Claude Chabrol, released in 1959. It is considered one of the most representative films of the French cinematographic movement known as “la Nouvelle Vague”.

The film follows the story of two cousins: the shy and studious Paul (played by Jean-Claude Brialy) and the outgoing and worldly Charles (played by Gérard Blain). Paul moves to Paris to study law, and is welcomed by his cousin Charles, who introduces him to the nightlife and parties of Parisian high society. Paul, however, feels increasingly uncomfortable in this environment, which seems empty and superficial, and begins to have mixed feelings towards his cousin.

The film explores the themes of disillusionment, alienation and loneliness in modern society. Indeed, Chabrol criticizes the superficiality of the Parisian bourgeoisie and the lack of authenticity and true values ​​in their lives. The contrast between the two cousins ​​represents the opposition between two ways of living: the traditional and the modern one, that of commitment and study and that of idleness and fun.

The film was a great success with critics and audiences, and is considered a classic of French cinema. The film also influenced many other directors, both French and foreign, and helped define the style of the Nouvelle Vague.


The Adventure (1960)

“The Adventure” is a 1960 film directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, one of the greatest directors of Italian cinema of the twentieth century. The film is the first of the famous trilogy of incommunicability, which also includes “The night” and “The eclipse”.

The plot of the film follows a group of wealthy friends who set off on a boat trip to the archipelago of the Aeolian Islands. During the crossing, a young woman named Anna (played by Lea Massari) mysteriously disappears. Her friend Claudia (played by Monica Vitti) and Anna’s boyfriend Sandro (played by Gabriele Ferzetti) start looking for her desperately, but their search proves to be in vain. Throughout the film, Claudia and Sandro begin to feel a strange attraction for each other, while the mystery of Anna’s disappearance remains unsolved.

“The Adventure” is considered a masterpiece of Italian cinema and a milestone of auteur cinema. The film is famous for its slow pace and attention to detail, for its black and white cinematography and for its ability to portray the incommunicability between people in a strikingly effective way. Furthermore, the film has aroused many interpretations and discussions among film scholars and the general public, becoming one of the most important examples of the arthouse cinema European 60s.

Breathless (1960)

It is a 1960 film directed by Jean-Luc Godard, considered a classic of French cinema and one of the masterpieces of the Nouvelle Vague film movement.

The plot follows the story of Michel, a young criminal who, after killing a policeman, takes refuge in Paris and falls in love with Patricia, an American student. The two embark on a relationship, but their happiness is threatened by the manhunt unleashed by the police in search of Michel.

The film was acclaimed for its innovative camera technique, with the use of a handheld camera that gave an effect of realism and immediacy, and for its revolutionary non-linear storytelling. In addition, Martial Solal’s jazz soundtrack has also become a classic.

The film influenced a number of later filmmakers and has been cited as a forerunner of modern cinema. It is considered one of the most important films in the history of cinema and an example of how cinema can challenge narrative and visual conventions to create a unique cinematic experience.

Last Year at Marienbad (1961)

It is a 1961 French film, directed by Alain Resnais and written by Alain Robbe-Grillet. The film was presented in competition at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Golden Lion.

The plot of the film is very complex and mysterious. The story is set in a luxurious hotel, where a man meets a woman and tries to convince her that he met her the previous year in Marienbad. The woman, however, does not remember ever having seen him before. The man continues to insist, presenting a series of ambiguous and contradictory accounts of their alleged past relationship.

The film is known for its highly stylized visual style, which combines static shots with slow, fluid camera movements. The soundtrack was created by Francis Seyrig and uses music by Erik Satie.

The film was a highly influential film, often cited as a masterpiece of European avant-garde cinema. The film inspired numerous other filmmakers, including Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch and Wes Anderson, and had a significant impact on film theory and criticism. The film has also been the subject of many debates and interpretations, as its plot is enigmatic and open to many interpretations.

A Woman is a Woman (1961)

It is a 1961 film directed by Jean-Luc Godard and starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, Anna Karina and Jean-Claude Brialy. The film is a musical comedy that follows the story of a young dancer, Angela, played by Anna Karina, who tries to convince her boyfriend Emile, played by Jean-Claude Brialy, to marry her and have a child.

The plot is quite simple, but the film stands out for its unique visual and sound style, characterized by innovative use of soundtrack and editing techniques. Director Jean-Luc Godard is known for his radical and experimental style, and Woman is a Woman is no exception. The film was made during a time when Godard was trying to transcend the conventions of traditional cinema and find new ways to express his artistic vision.

The film was met with positive reviews from critics and won the Best Actress Award at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival for Anna Karina’s performance. The film is considered a classic of the French Nouvelle Vague and one of Godard’s masterpieces. If you are interested in experimental cinema and Nouvelle Vague films, Woman is a Woman is definitely a film worth seeing.


Lola (1961)

Lola is a 1961 film directed by Jacques Demy. It is a black and white film that tells the story of Lola, a cabaret dancer, and her loves.

The film is set in the port city of Nantes, France and follows Lola as she tries to find the love of her life. Lola meets many men during the course of the film, but her heart belongs to Michel, a young man who has just moved to the city. Michel, however, has a complicated relationship with Roland, a wealthy businessman who is financing him to open a modeling shop.

The plot of the film unfolds through the stories of the characters who gravitate around Lola and Michel, including a young single mother named Cécile and a friend of Michel’s named Frankie. Eventually, Lola and Michel meet again and decide to give their relationship a chance, while Roland is forced to deal with the end of his relationship with Michel.

Lola is a notable film for its romantic atmosphere and nostalgic, which is amplified by Michel Legrand’s soundtrack. The film is also important as an example of French “auteur cinema”.

La Jetée (1962)

La Jetée” is a 1962 French film directed by Chris Marker. It is considered one of the most important films in the history of avant-garde cinema and experimental cinema.

The film is notable for being made almost entirely in black and white, with the exception of a single color scene, and is composed mostly of still photography, with only some moving images. This unique style of making gives the film a surreal and dreamlike feel, which fits the plot.

The film tells the story of a man who lives in a post-apocalyptic world where most of the population was wiped out in a nuclear war. The man has been chosen to participate in a scientific experiment that takes him back in time to 1960s Paris, where he meets a woman who becomes his only source of happiness in an otherwise empty and desolate world.

“La Jetée” is a particularly interesting film from a narrative point of view, as it uses an external narrator to tell the story of the man and his experience, instead of traditional dialogues. In addition, its plot, which combines science fiction with romance, has inspired many subsequent films, including Terry Gilliam’s famous “12 Monkeys”.

“La Jetée” is a film of great artistic and cultural value, which has influenced many directors and cinema enthusiasts. Its still photography technique, gripping storyline, and surreal atmosphere still make it an extremely interesting cinematic work to watch and analyze today.

Jules and Jim (1962)

“Jules and Jim” is a 1962 French film directed by Francois Truffaut, based on the novel of the same name by Henri-Pierre Roché.

The story takes place in Europe between 1912 and 1933 and follows the relationship between Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jim (Henri Serre), two French friends who fall in love with the same woman, Catherine (Jeanne Moreau). The relationship between the three becomes increasingly complicated and conflicted over the years, as Catherine cannot choose between the two men.

The film is known for its innovative style, which includes creative use of non-linear storytelling, voice-overs and black-and-white photography. It was critically acclaimed for its audacity and unconventional depiction of love and sexuality.

In addition, the film has a memorable soundtrack composed by Georges Delerue, which includes the song “Le Tourbillon de la Vie”, sung by Jeanne Moreau, which has become a classic of French music.

“Jules and Jim” is considered a classic of French cinema and has influenced many subsequent directors. The film also solidified Truffaut’s position as one of the most important directors of the French New Wave.

Love at Twenty (1962)

It is a French-Italian episodic film from 1962, directed by three important directors of European cinema: François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard and Claude Chabrol. The film is made up of three independent stories revolving around the theme of love and adolescence.

The first episode, “Antoine and Colette”, directed by Truffaut, is the sequel to the famous film “The 400 Blows”. The protagonist Antoine Doinel (played by Jean-Pierre Léaud) has come of age and works as a music printer. He meets Colette (played by Marie-France Pisier), a girl he likes a lot, but who doesn’t seem to reciprocate his feelings.

The second episode, “Le Garçon Scandaleux”, directed by Godard, is the story of a young man (played by Jean-Pierre Léaud) who tries to win over a girl but is thwarted by her father.

The third episode, “Amour à vingt ans”, directed by Chabrol, is the story of a young soldier who returns home to Brittany on leave and falls in love with an older woman.

“Love at Twenty” is a very representative film of the French Nouvelle Vague, a cinematographic movement of the 60s that brought about many innovations in the way of making cinema. The film was critically acclaimed and helped make the three directors involved famous.

Contempt (1963)

It is a 1963 film directed by Jean-Luc Godard, based on the 1954 novel by Alberto Moravia. The film stars Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli, Jack Palance and Fritz Lang, who plays himself.

The plot follows screenwriter Paul Javal (played by Michel Piccoli), who is hired to rewrite the screenplay for a Greek film directed by the legendary director Fritz Lang (played by himself). While filming the film, Paul’s wife Camille (played by Brigitte Bardot) meets the film’s producer (played by Jack Palance) and begins an affair with him, which strains Paul’s marriage.

The film focuses on the art of cinema and its ability to represent reality and the contempt that can arise in human relationships. Paul’s character represents the alienated intellectual, who seeks to achieve his freedom and self-determination through artistic work. Camille, on the other hand, represents the female figure sacrificed on the altar of male desire, who is subjugated and betrayed.

The film is famous for its long takes and use of fixed shots, which highlight the characters’ dialogue and facial expressions. The cinematography is spectacular, with the use of CinemaScope and primary colors to create a feeling of alienation and despair.

The dfilm is considered one of the most important and influential films of the French New Wave, due to its innovative approach to cinematic storytelling and its distinctive visual style. The film also had a significant impact on popular culture, inspiring numerous subsequent filmmakers and artists.


Pierrot le fou (1965)

“Pierrot le fou” is a 1965 film directed by the French director Jean-Luc Godard. The film is a cinematic artwork of the Nouvelle Vague, a 1960s French cinematic movement known for its innovative techniques and unconventional storytelling.

The plot of the film follows the story of Ferdinand Griffon, played by Jean-Paul Belmondo, a man dissatisfied with his life who decides to run away with his ex-lover Marianne Renoir, played by Anna Karina. Together, the two become involved in a series of adventures that take them to Paris and the coast of France.

“Pierrot le fou” is known for its unique visual style, which combines cinematographer Raoul Coutard’s vibrant photography with Godard’s non-linear editing and Antoine Duhamel’s jazzy score. The film is also known for its numerous cultural quotations and references to other films, works of literature and works of art.

The film was met with a mixed reception by critics upon release, but went on to become a classic of French cinema and one of the most influential films of the Nouvelle Vague. “Pierrot le fou” is considered one of Godard’s masterpieces and has inspired many other directors and artists over the years.

Alphaville (1965)

“Alphaville” is a science fiction film French 1965 directed by Jean-Luc Godard. The film is set in a dystopian future where society is run by a supercomputer called Alpha 60 and where emotions and creativity have been purged.

The story follows the protagonist Lemmy Caution, a secret agent sent from Earth to find and destroy the supercomputer. During his mission, Caution meets the daughter of the creator of Alpha 60, a woman named Natacha, and falls in love with her.

The film is known for its dark and surreal atmosphere, its critique of technology and modern society, and its formal experimentation. Godard employs a number of innovative cinematic techniques, including the use of distorted imagery, voice-over and narrative discontinuity, to create a unique cinematic experience.

‘Alphaville’ was a box office success and received critical acclaim for its forward-thinking vision and originality. It has become a cult film over the years and has influenced many other science fiction films since.

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