French New Wave And Authorship - University Of West London Film Movments - Essay

3300 words - 14 pages

21289026: Alexander Kane Beezer Film Movement Assignment 2 13 April 2018
In French New Wave, the style of authorship is evident and is portrayed when the director is the creative influence behind the film. Dogme 95 rejects this theory of authorship and suggests that film is a collaborative effort, not solely influenced by the director, which creates a paradox by a director’s distinct style, with each film. Authorship is a polemical proclamation of authorship, brought into being, to create a discourse surrounding the production and reception of the films (Bordwell, Thompson, 2010).
French mainstream cinema became distant with post-war French youth, with the films not reflecting that era. These popular films where negatively described: Dry, recycled, inexpressive of human life; one critic stating, ‘Nostalgia for a cinema that no longer exists’ (Narboni, 1972). While French New Wave initially started as a formal movement, its filmmakers were connected by their unanimous repudiation of the "cinéma de qualité" (cinema of quality), which prompted a new generation of French directors to bring back the art of cinema and introduce the auteur theory (Brody, 2008)
Dogme 95 represented something of a paradox. While the figure of the individual filmmaker is explicitly denied in the movement’s Manifesto, its films are continuously understood in relation to the figures of its founders, with minimalist, hand-held aesthetic and guerilla-style production, similar to French New Wave who introduces the consumer-level digital technology and the DIY movement (MacKenzie, S, 2014). Throughout film history, movements consisted of a clear source, the manifesto and a clear agenda. This essay will consider the authorship of two movements, French New Wave and Dogme 95.
The term authorship, translated from the French, auteur, meaning author, has various meanings, the generic definition being the profession of writing, the source of a piece of writing, music, art or film; or the act of creating (Marriam-Webster dictionary online, 2017). However, the concept of authorship, auteursim or auteur, the terms used interchangeably in this essay, since the 1950s, provoked debate amongst French film critiques, since the Cahiers du Cinema (Caughie, 1891) due to what was perceived to be a combination industrial (production companies) and collaborative of film production (directors). For instance, Alfred Hitchcock’s films are recognizable not only for their story and stylistic elements but also for his standardized production method (Carringer, 2001). The context of the argument was who could be considered to be the author and what evidence is there to support such a claim? Though some questioned the necessity of authorship, it was viewed essential for reasons of intellectual property rights, status and identification and more so for the commercial filmmaking when authorship is not clearly defined. Commercial filming is a collaborative production made up of different levels of contributions from various professionals. For example, Kubrick exerted heavy control over his screenplays, even to the point of discounting writing partners like Jim Thompson (Naremore 1990). In terms of filmmaking for cinema, authorship is important when addressing the issue of credits and awards or why the film failed (Gerstner and Staiger, 2003). Though authorship theory is based on auteur, writer or collaboration (Grant, 2008 ) it can be argued that the director makes the final decision of how scenes look and sound and therefore influencing the film's final form significantly. However, due to the film making method a collaboration form, consisting of various skilled professionals which Kipen claims “collaboration doesn’t preclude analysis,” it makes it significantly more difficult to “give credit where credit is due” (Kipen 2006). However, the writing style and the film’s formulation may be directly associated with the authorship of a director.
The relationship between the author and director was further highlighted a decade later. By the 1960s, Sarris suggested the idea of ‘auteur theory’ as a means of promoting the standing of the director’s role as the author in the film production based on individual authors’ level of artistic authorship (Caldwell,2013). The underlying concept is that the director is the author and his ideas are rooted in all the decisions. Consequently, the director is responsible for the infrastructure of the film’s direction, for example screen writing, editing and cinematography (Murray, 2016).
The New Wave directors began writing as critics for the French journal Cahiers du Cinema, having a reputation for analysing, critiquing and glorifying films while loving or bad mouthing the rest (Greene, 2007). Going through the process of judging the art of cinema, they began to question the speciality of the medium and were later inspired to become filmmakers themselves. Under the guidance of the Cahiers du Cinema magazine’s editor, Andre Bazin, suggests directors would go on to developing their auteur style, led by Francois Truffaut who wrote the defining essay for auteur film, titled “A Certain Tendency of French Cinema” which Truffaut defends as his passion for cinema and literature. Truffaut’s hypothesis suggests that more creative power should go to the director, to reveal and display the director’s creative process and his emotions (Murray, 2016). In addition, he posits that filmmakers, who were rewarded for their critical acclaim, did not have full control over films, leaving adaptations with little depth and less creative influence, labelling them as “metteurs-en-scene”. In contrast, Truffaut argues that filmmaking should be telling with images, distinguishing difference between scriptwriters and directors with directors translating their emotions and thoughts through act of cinematic language (Neupert, 2006).
Truffaut also discuss the theory of “psychological realism”, a literary genre considered to be character-driven which places special emphasis on the interior life of the protagonist or other point-of-view characters, instead of simply telling a story (Truffaut, 1954). Psychological realism became the catalyst for French New Wave, as it allowed multiple interpretations and the existence of a deeper meaning. With film recognised as an art form, its themes were justified and storylines created specifically for visual storytelling. This led to New Wave rejecting the "Old Hollywood" ideology for traditional storytelling. These stories were based on narrative styles and structures lifted from other arts, such as books and theatre. Auteur cinema was created to counterbalance this difference in cinematic language and was highly recognised in French production during the 1950’s (Ostrowska, 2008).
New Wave directors did not want to directly guide the audience through by ensuring their films’ narrative was not too linear so that the audience could use their cognition to interpret analyse the narrative according to their emotions. Furthermore, the directors aimed to replicate the same perceptions and reactions within life, onto film (Greene, 2007) which is portrayed in the film, The Four Blow (1959) about a young Parisian boy, Antoine Doinel, who is persistently getting into trouble at school. His parents do their best to keep him in line but lack understanding of him. After he was punished for skipping classes, he runs away from home and spends a night on the streets (Wiegand, 2005). Taking Events from his own life, Truffaut replicated the emotional nuance of daily life by familiarize details using cinematography. Truffaut’s director’s vision was achieved with the assistance of Herni Dence whose work on documentaries gave the film’s tone a sense of realism.
Dence’s use of handheld and long shots, present Paris to be both gritty and romantic. This depth adds to Doinel’s quest to gain acceptance from his family while coping with his own loss of identity (Carringer, 2001). These directors wanted to reinvent the cinema experience for audiences by cognitive viewing, by watching the film viewers can create their own thoughts and feeling but think about their own lives, thoughts and emotions as well (Romney, 2008).
Expressing the truth was of the most important aspect in the New Wave. Realistic dialogue and spontaneous was key element making the film entertaining and honest to communicate, a philosophical that made the viewer think beyond the film (Hillier 48). Truffaut encouraged filmmakers to take liberties with their scripts, as the new wave directors were revolutionising film, with a minimalist budget, forcing them to improvise and unintentionally creating new film techniques (Gass, 2016).
The Four Blow (1959) interrogation scene is a reflexive performance on the events within the film and inspiration of Tuffaut’s own childhood with Jean- Pierre Leaud, who is the catalysed (Antoine Doinel) speaking to the camera and to the audience (Carringer, 2001). In this scene, the psychologist is questioning Antoine, as Truffaut directs the audience’s focus on Antoine’s answers by eliminating the reaction shot of the female psychologist (as well as the actress not being available) (Neupert, 2006). The scene is established in the following way: There is a two-dissolve transition, filmed using a stationary camera. Antione’s body language, his performance and the improvisations, reflect his coldness and disinterest response, to the psychologist’s questions which makes it difficult to see the difference between script and the spontaneity (McCullough, 2016). Truffaut’s directions gave Leaud  the freedom to answer as he saw fit, his expression, hesitations and a total spontaneity gives the result of a haunting variation on Cinema Verite. With very long interview shots and minimising the footage to three minutes, with dissolves helping to create six response dreamlike response from Antonie, Leaud gives an impressively complex turn as a boy who is mature for his age, while having a full range of childhood emotions and a high level of humanity to Antoine’s sullen swagger (Wiegand, 2005). Truffaut’s does not hand over a facile psychological or sociological explanation on why Antione is the way he is or his complicated relationship with his parents. There is no sure answers ever given but the director leaves it up to the audience’s imagination, which Truffaut’s auteur cinema represents.
In March 1995, at a conference celebrating the 100 years of Cinema held at the Odéon Theatre in Paris, the Danish film director Lars von Trier surprised the organisers distributing red leaflets. Along with Thomes Vinterberg, they both co-founded the new film movement, Dogme 95, led by its dogmatic principles within its manifesto (Badley, 2006). However, this created a paradox in Dogme’s idea of authorship. Although, Dogme is also against the idea of authorship of the director, demolishing the romantic theory of the unique artistic personality; for an idiosyncratic artist such as Trier, this is a rather devious rule (Christensen, Claus, 2000). Directors would question if they broke the rules for their own aesthetic purpose which, contradicts the manifesto they swore on. Thomas Vinterberg said that the vow has gone beyond as a set of rules. Rather, it is his philosophical ideas (Kelly, R 2000)
Manifestos are typically understood as challenging the steady flow of politics, aesthetics or history, Mackenzie, 2011). Dogme challenged the ideology of the moving images is detailed in their manifesto, titled “Vow of chastity”. Ten formal characteristics influenced by its multiple assimilations of cinema, leading the futurist, using literature and figurative arts created cinematic poetry, using overlays, colour, editing within the frame and unconventional cuts of the images (MacKenzie, 2011). This revelation made the futurist the founder all of avant-gardes cinema, not seeing cinema as a technology but a means of stylistic expression (Brunetta, 2009 ). these ten rules would determine the aesthetic, narrative and production style of the films of this Movement. The manifesto is very clear on the subject of authorship - but in its negation, as in the tenth vow (“The director must not be credited“) or in the oath at the end: “I swear as a director to refrain from personal taste… and any aesthetic considerations.”
Vinterberg’s The Celebration (1998) Dogme’s first major appearance was at the 1998 Cannes film festival. Danish cinema was renowned for tradition realism following the principals Dogme designed. With provocative themes of incest, disability and overly melodramatic in the films (Kingsley, 2012), this caused controversy with the Cannes film festival audience. The Celebration features a distinct aesthetic clearly characterized by the rules of Dogme 95 and concomitant with its manifesto. Each Dogme 95 film, was composed of similar aesthetic with the extensive use of minimalist production values within its overall style (Badley, Eds, 2006). This simplistic aesthetic creates a certain authenticity to the films; focusing on the viewer’s attention onto the action and dialogue of the characters. Despite the fact it initially seems unusual, The Celebration’s individual style becomes a defining characteristic of the film rather than the narrative (Chaudhuri, S. 2005)
The opening scene from The Celebration opens with an extreme long shot of the protagonist, Christian (Ulrich Thomsen) within severely isolated in the frame, walking along the road countryside while talking on his cell phone. Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle took advantage of the format DV cassette. Using Sony Handycam, visually appears in a low image quality, becoming grainy and distorted compared to films shot using standard 35mm film (Kelly, R., 2000). Already, the audience is exposed to a reimagined style of filmmaking. Dogme 95’s signature handheld camera work very apparent with clearly visible shakiness, choices, which are meant, be jarring. Although the film manages to follow the Vow of Chastity quite meticulously, however, some scenes in the film appear to contradict the Dogme 95’s rules, creating those paradoxes in the film (Johnson, 2013)
Continuing with the opening shot, the film cuts to a close-up of Christian’s face shot using a wide-angle ‘fisheye’ style lens. This scene violates rule number five of the manifesto that states “optical work and filters are forbidden” (Kelly, 2000). The lens choice appears to violate Vinterberg’s own rules, choosing to go with the wide-angle lens aids to reinforce another Dogme 95 rule, “shooting must be done on location.” The wide-angle lens helps to give the audience an expansive view of Christian's surroundings. The sound in this scene is also characteristic of Dogme 95, appearing to come completely from Christian’s voice as he speaks into the mobile phone, there is an absence of non-diegetic music and sound effects in this opening scene and throughout the remainder of the film (Johnson, 2013). This continues from the anti-aesthetic tendency of the movement, ignoring “any good taste and any aesthetics” (MacKenzie, 2011).
The Celebration of low budget production values, artificial settings, and backing soundtrack allows more significance to be placed on the actors and their performances. Although, the opening scene contains little to no dialogue, the acting appears authentic. It is still possible to determine Christian's destination and the fact that something big will happen when he arrives. Filmmakers and critics praised the new movement and their growing recognition, with one critic stating, "express goal of countering 'certain tendencies' in the cinema today" (Bjorkman, 1993).
French New Wave films were centred on the affective and sexual relationships between the protagonists who were also perceived as a trademark of the new cinema (Sellier, 2010), creating iconic moments in Jean Godard’s Breathless (1959) with Jean-Paul Belmondo sauntering along the champs Elysees with Jean Seberg. Thus, the movies of the French New Wave modernised filmmaking with distinct techniques recognised today: Shooting outdoors and on location, using natural lighting, rapid editing, jump cuts, long takes, mobile cameras and direct sound recording (Greene, 2007). Truffaut’s definition of auteur theory recognised today as representative of the movement has made him into an icon within the movement and in film history. Becoming frustrated with the state of cinema, Turffaut rallied idealistic young directors, with enough determination, devotions and creativity to revitalize world cinema (Neupert,2006).
With Dogme 95 the new avant-gardes cinema rallied against the Hollywood style, by presentation of a new, alternative style; as well as the protecting the ideals likes ‘freedom’ or ‘realism’ in film production but its manifesto in The Celebration is plagued by contradictions
(Hjort, M 2005). By trying to systematise these contradictions to deliver an answer to the ‘paradoxical’ question, Dogme's proposed negation of authorship as follows. Dogme’s negation of authorship is a negation of a simplified version, the negation of the auteur-myth; a surrogate of the idea of French New wave can be identified with the traditional romantic authorship ideal (Gray, J, Johnson, 2013). The idea of traditional Hollywood filmmaking becoming over reliant and expensive with special effects which, Dogma filmmakers aim was to "undress film, to reach the 'naked film"(Van Der Vliet, 2009) by reverting to the basics: Story, setting and performance.
For film movement to be remembered is necessary for to have clear source (the manifesto), and a set goals (to locate the movement within film history). It is also a polemical proclamation of authorship, brought into being to create a discourse surrounding the production and reception of the films of the movement.
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Bordwell, D., Thompson, K., 2010. Film art: an introduction, 9. ed. ed. McGraw-Hill, New York: p115
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Caughie, J. (Ed.), 1981. Theories of authorship: a reader, Reprint. ed, British Film Institute readers in film studies. Routledge, London: p35.
Chaudhuri, Shohini. 2005. “Dogma Brothers: Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg.” In New Punk Cinema, ed. Nicholas Rombes. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Christensen, C, 2000 " Documentary Gets the Dogma Treatment." Hjort Mackenzie, Purity and Provation: p183-88.
Gerstner, David A., and Janet Staiger. Authorship and Film. New York: Routledge, 2003: Print p23.
Grant, B.K. (Ed.), 2008. Auteurs and authorship: a film reader. Blackwell Pub, Malden, MA ; Oxford: p54.
Greene, N., 2007. The French New Wave: a new look, Short cuts. Wallflower, London: p3, 9, 13.
Gray, J., Johnson, D. (Eds.), 2013. A companion to media authorship. Wiley Blackwell, Malden, MA: online.
Hillier, Jim. Cahiers du cinéma, the 1950s : neo-realism, Hollywood, New Wave. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1985: p45.
Hjort, Mette. 2005. Small Nation, Global Cinema: The New Danish Cinema. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Kelly, Richard., 2000. The name of this book is Dogme95. Faber and Faber, London ; New York: P115-123
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Kipen, David. The Schreiber Theory: A Radical Rewrite of American Film History. Hoboken, NJ: Melville House Pub., 2006: p23.
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Narboni, Jean and Tom Milne (eds.). Godard on Godard: critical writings by Jean-Luc Godard. London: Secker & Warburg, 1972: p192.
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