hoggle wrote:Jules and Jim was the first film I watched by a New Wave director other than Godard, and I was very much taken aback by how Old Wave it felt. It made me wonder if the aspects I love about Godard, and which I believed to be part of the New Wave makeup -- formal experimentation, political radicalism, an intense desire to create something New -- were limited only to him.
If I watched Jules and Jim on its own terms, I might have found some sort of enjoyment in it, but as a teenager expecting more excitement out of the New Wave, it was incredibly disappointing to me. I always thought of returning to it, but after watching such flat, forgettable films as Fahrenheit 451 and Shoot the Piano Player, it's hard to see the point. From my experience, Truffaut mainly made entertainments, very little close to (pop) art, which would be fine with me if his films were more entertaining. I do like the the 400 Blows and Small Change -- it seems Truffaut worked well with children, and sympathised with them more than his fellows --, but they've been growing worse in hindsight, coloured as they are by what surrounds them.
Or maybe I just didn't care for it because love triangles don't do anything for me.
If you watch the New Wave beyond Godard (and I don't intend to denigrate the Godard films in any way), you will see a lot of different approaches to film, many of which don't fit comfortably into your definition of what the New Wave was supposed to be about. Truffaut isn't politically committed within the context of his films (and Godard only gradually becomes more politically motivated as the new wave comes to an end), but there are lots of other ways to appreciate his films beyond what you'd recommend. And the films are still New Wave, like as not; Jules et Jim and Shoot the Piano Player are quintessential New Wave films. Also New Wave-y without question are the early films of Chabrol and Rohmer and Rivette and Demy; none of whom make movies that seem too terribly much like Godard's early output. If you consider "satellite" directors like Kast, Doniol-Valcroze, Rozier, Varda or Eustache, you have a far larger perspective for what makes the films "New Wave," beyond simply political commitment, formal experimentation and pop-artiness. Certainly those are elements of Godard and Marker, and to some extent Resnais, but those aren't necessarily the goals or ambitions of Truffaut--or Demy, or Chabrol, et al. And yet, viewers when the New Wave was happening were as startled by the freshness of Truffaut movies as by those of Godard. Attitudes and ideas which made the New Wave what it was went beyond political convictions and stylistic experimentation, and they included diverse new attitudes towards sex and sexuality, production schemes, use of new film stocks, new ways of looking at Paris, a new consciousness of the history and tradition within the movies...and, like the movies of the other New Wave filmmakers, Truffaut's movies are alive with so many fresh insights, strong feelings and fervent inspirations.
But if you see films as split, binary-style, between art and entertainment--and if you're willing to dismiss Shoot the Piano Player as both "flat" and "forgettable," I can see that you might dismiss Truffaut on the whole. But to me it's a mistake to go that far. There are many Truffaut films that more than repay great interest--films released during the era of the New Wave and after--and if you can see your way to removing some of the preconceived demands you place upon the films, you might find exceptional qualities throughout. The New Wave wasn't simply a collection of shared political beliefs and stylistic experiments made in a shared spirit, bucking trend and tradition with clear-eyed, calculated affronts; it was more like breathing a different quality of air--being moved by film in a new way--and perhaps being subtly changed by what you felt. Audiences felt that movement when they saw Shoot the Piano Player, Jules et Jim--even The Soft Skin--just as they did when they saw Breathless, My Life to Live and Contempt. What's more, I would say that seeing the films as a teenager is not adequate--at that age none of us are in the position to have much context in which to gauge the sensitivity with which the films are made, or much of any appreciation for the more subtle resonances which speak from the films after they have been seen.