Monday, August 6, 2012

The French New Wave Or Two Or Three Things That I Know About Myself

The Cinema art movement
Known around the world as
The "French New Wave”
Is best known
For its stylistic innovations
that challenged the conventions
of Hollywood cinema,
Jean Luc Godard
 is universally recognized
as the most audacious,
as well as the
most influential of
the Nouvelle Vague filmmakers.

Anyone can make movies!
Is perhaps the single
most important lesson
to be learned from the
French New Wave
just ask
Jean Luc Godard
Francois Truffaut
Alain Resnais
Jacques Rivette and
Claude Chabrol

Anyone can make movies!
Even me!
Even you!
For instance
by New Wave standards
Each and every
one of my poems
could be viewed
as a potential
scenario for a film!
(In this regard
I have potential
scenarios for
hundreds of movies!
What freedom!)

Godard has said that
that all that one needs
to make a film is a
girl and a gun!
It was Godard
who made                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
Jean Paul Belmondo and
Jean Seberg
into internationally acclaimed
film stars
in an unpretentious movie
called Breathless (1959)

I once had the
honor and pleasure of
meeting Jean-Luc
at a Paris street demonstration
during the student riots of
May 1968
(I even have
the photos to prove it)

Godard was standing next to
his protégé
Jean Pierre Leaud
in the Place du Lion
(at metro stop
eyeing me suspiciously
for having the audacity to
be taking his photograph
(Quite naturally!
After all
he suspected me
of being
an agent of the
French Secret Police!)

I was not
Instead I was a student
trying to learn to speak French
at the Sorbonne
(All my papers were in order)
But during those troubling times
everyone was suspicious of
everyone else

(It was a wartime
situation after all!)

How exciting it was for me
at the age of twenty
in the middle of
a bonafide revolution
taking part and yet
not taking part
aware and yet
not aware
It was all so intoxicating!
What a heady brew!
Street drama!
Famous celebrities!
The intellectual and cultural elites
of Paris and all the rest of Europe
joining forces
to confront the
right wing forces of
the fascist leaning regime of
Gen. Charles DeGaulle’s
Fifth Republic!

Gen. DeGaulle’s
Fifth Republic
had all but
exhausted itself
having outlived
its own usefulness
and the people
(led by the students and
the labor unions)
demanded change!

They wanted their
freedoms restored!
They wanted to breathe freely!
To live freely!
To express themselves freely!

In the end
It was DeGaulle’s government
that was forced to capitulate
to the demands of the
street demonstrators or else
France would have come apart
in an all out civil war
(And there I was!
Right smack
in the middle of
it all!
Taking notes!
Bearing witness!)

It was without a doubt
the single most formative
experience of my life!
I had just turned 21!

How you gonna 
keep ‘em down
on the farm
after they’ve seen Paris?

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Post Script:
Jean-Luc Godard (born 3 December 1930) is a Franco-Swiss filmmaker and a leading member of the "French New Wave”. Known for stylistic innovations that challenged the conventions of Hollywood cinema, he is universally recognized as the most audacious, radical, as well as the most influential of the Nouvelle Vague filmmakers. His work reflects a fervent knowledge of film history, a comprehensive understanding of existential and Marxist philosophy, and a profound insight into the fragility of human relationships.
Godard’s method of directing A Bout de Souffle was even more radical than his technical innovations. Much to the producer Beauregard’s disapproval, he often only filmed for a couple of hours a day. Sometimes, when lacking the necessary inspiration, he would cancel the day’s filming altogether. Early on in the shoot, he discarded the screenplay he had written and decided to write the dialogue day by day as the production went along. The actors found this procedure strange and sometimes forgot their lines, however, since the soundtrack was to be post-synchronized later, when the actor’s were lost for words, Godard would call out their lines to them from behind the camera. For Godard the act of making a film was as much a part of its meaning as its content and style. He felt a film reflected the conditions under which it was made and that a film’s technique was the method by which a director made a film personal.
Godard’s unorthodox methods continued in the editing suite. His first cut of À bout de souffle was two-and-a-half hours long but Beauregard had required he deliver a ninety-minute film. Rather than cutting out whole scenes, he decided to cut within scenes, even within shots. This use of deliberate jump cuts was unheard of in professional filmmaking where edits were designed to be as seamless as possible. He also cut between shots from intentionally disorienting angles that broke all the traditional rules of continuity. By deliberately appearing amateurish Godard drew attention to the conventions of classic cinema, revealing them for what they were, merely conventions.
It wasn’t only in the montage of images that Godard expressed his personality, but also through the rich depth of references to cinema and literature. À Bout de Souffle abounded with quotations of movies by directors such as Samuel Fuller, Joseph H. Lewis, Otto Preminger and any number of classic film noirs. The film is even dedicated to Monogram Films, an American “B-movie” studio. There were also quotations and references to writers such as Faulkner, Dylan Thomas, and Louis Aragon, as well as painters like Picasso, Renoir and Klee.

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