New Wave films were sensual, melancholic, capturing the zeitgeist and reflecting the turbulent social and political changes that characterized the 1950s and 1960s. The Paris Riots in May 1968 could have been scripted by writers of the New Wave. Through critiques and editorials, they conceived the principle that the director, like the author of a book, was the auteur of the film and formulated credits that began A Film By - a format readily adopted by directors everywhere. More significantly, la Nouvelle Vague filmmakers challenged the commercial Hollywood notion of movies as entertainment (or business, or propaganda) and perceived film as an art form. As the art form.
Although these writer/directors inevitably moved on to make features, one more achievement was that they had provided new dignity and a sense of place to the short film. In a short there is an opportunity to reshuffle the cards of film language and take on themes commercial producers avoid on both commercial grounds and the fear of the new. There is a certain comfort in the dull warmth of Plato's cave, our backs to the sun watching shadows on the wall. Show us a glimpse of life beyond the walls of our own narrow world, and the mind will not immediately compute what it is seeing. It is the brave artist - or auteur - prepared to swim against the tide who often finds the greatest success; or at least critical success.
The growth of impressionistic, poetic, surreal, transgressional, boundary breaking, avant-garde exploratory films gave rise to the festival circuit, as well as the introduction of Art House cinemas where audiences can expect to see films that are difficult, complex, controversial or just plain foreign.
Little of this would have been achieved with the French New Wave and Chris Wiegand in this concise Pocket Essential reminds us once again of the debt we owe Truffaut, Rivette, Chabrol, Godard, Rohmer and, of course, the great Andre Bazin.