Jump cut. That small, relatively unknown term is what led me to the filmmakers of the French New Wave. I read it somewhere in relation to the films of Martin Scorsese... a simple editing trick that speeds up time but quickly became the hallmark for a loose, electric type of French filmmaking that was beginning to grow from murmurs across the ocean into chorus waves of critical praise. The name Jean Luc Godard and Francious Truffaut kept creeping up. I had to see what this was all about. I went to the local video stores (yes, VHS copies, this was before DVD) and saw one title from the lackluster "foreign" film section with the name Godard on it. I rented it, took it home and this was what I saw:
I was hooked. The way the camera breaks the fourth wall, Georges Delerue's lush and evocative score (which still stands as my favorite of all time) and the totally superfluous lens changes as the camera lovingly traces over Brigitte Bardot's flawless body. This was cinema pertaining to style and mood, with a little story thrown in for good measure. I'd never seen or felt anything quite like it. Truffaut's "Jules and Jim" and "Shoot the Piano Player" were next. Which led me to Jean Pierre Melville. Which led me back to Godard's "Breathless". Which led me to 45 plus films of Claude Chabrol. And with each new venture, I could feel my wonder and amazement evolving as if I'd discovered something highly secretive. This "love affair", if you will, with the French New Wave continues even today. There are times when I recognize a stolen moment or idea from one of the nouvelle vague greats... and I always smile. 50 years plus, and those lightning bolts of cinema still produce charges of greatness.
There are film movements today that almost rival the energy of the French New Wave. Asian cinema, in particular, continues to ebb and flow with true masters (Johnnie To and Chan Wook Park) while the newly christened Romanian film scene is emerging as a force to be reckoned with- if only it contained more than 5 or 6 features. But the French New wave were different. The original 'film brats' (who mostly wrote and devoured movies and prodded hidden/unrecognized gems of brilliance from the studio films of Hollywood) they understood the rules... which in turn gave them permission to break them. They unleased a flurry of playful ideas based in the old genre tropes. We need disruptive voices such as these to keep things fresh, extroverted and creative. For the French New Wave, nothing else than those words applies.