7 posts categorized "French New Wave"

September 20, 2017



ColesmitheyThere is beautiful chemistry between the legendary 88-year-old French New Wave filmmaker Agnes Varda and JR, the youthful French photographer who cares for Varda as a loyal would-be grandson of artistic intentions. JR and Varda share directing credits for this disarmingly sweet and poignant documentary that plays more as a docudrama due to the circumstance of uncertainty regarding Ms. Varda’s health.

The movie is a nuanced sociological study of French culture. Needless to say, the amount of pretense on display is near zero. Think of it as neo-realistic French New Wave ethnographic study in B minor. The personal and artistic elements are articulated to their fullest — a rare cinematic, event to say the least. It doesn't hurt that JR and Agnes Varda are two of the most endearing human beings you'd ever want to spend two hours of your life with. 


The harmonious pair of inspired film-project pals travel to small towns in France in a Mercedes Benz truck decorated to resemble a giant camera. Already we are in a filmic world. The sides of JR’s fancy mode of transportation includes a photo booth where locals are photographed. The truck then prints out black-and-white portraits on gigantic sheets of paper that JR pastes to the sides of buildings to create dramatic personalized statements about the significance of human faces and truth.


Although Varda’s vision is constantly blurry due to an eye condition, she complains about JR’s proclivity for always wearing sunglasses. She wants to see his eyes. But it is clear that JR separates himself as an artist from his subject so that your attention can focus on the art rather than the artist.

Cole smithey

“Faces Places” is a film you discover and revel in the joy of its simplicity, patience, and naturalistic discourse. Like all of Varda’s films, this one is special. It won this year’s L’Oeil d’or at Cannes for good reason. If you only see one film at NYFF55, “Faces Places” is the one to watch.


Not Rated. 89 minutes. (A) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)

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June 19, 2017



La-pointe-courteAgnes Varda was ahead of the curve in paving the way for the French New Wave. Her 1955 debut is a delicate balance of Bergman-inspired formalism mixed with neo-realistic elements to form a mature depiction of a young married Parisian couple visiting the young man’s hometown for the first time.

'La Pointe Courte' takes its title from the neighborhood in the fishing town of Sète in the south of France where the young pair come to grips with a relationship that may be headed for divorce.

Although not the most picturesque seaside village, the community operates with an anti-authorial mindset that nonetheless adheres to strict social codes of conduct. The sense of tradition and identity is pronounced in things like the way women neighbors chat while hanging their laundry. Agnes Varda's eye for detail focuses on the abstract, the concrete, and the poetic. Life has a value here that is simple but defiant. The tone and pacing take on a hypnotic quality that puts the viewer in a filmic trance. 


Philippe Noiret and Silvia Monfort took no payment for their performances as the couple whose marital issues find context against the social backdrop of a tiny community populated with feral cats. When we see a dead cat floating in the shoreline, it registers as a surrealistic grace note out of Luis Buñuel's dialectic of natural absurdity. It's enough to make you believe that Agnes Varda initiated the French New Wave single-handedly with this unforgettable film. 


Not Rated. 86 mins. (A+) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.


August 01, 2011


AlphavilleIn its opening credits, Jean-Luc Godard’s neo-noir is alternately titled "Alphaville, A Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution." The secondary caption is an allusion to the Peter Cheyney pulp novels on which the film is loosely based. It sounds like a kids’ sci-fi adventure story a la “Flash Gordon.” Instead, the low-budget, black-and-white, picture is a unique mix of noir and science fiction elements that Godard inventively blends into a dystopian polemic about an authoritarian world known as "Alphaville." A giant narrating computer called the Alpha 60 dictates all domestic and foreign policy. Goddard used an actor without a larynx, speaking through a voice box, for the computer's otherworldly intonation. This is more “1984” than “Flash Gordon.”

Agente Lemmy Caution: missione Alphaville

In this strange reality, days are short and nights are long. Darkness and long shadows pervade. Authoritarian-enforced logic tramples out emotion and imagination. Goddard's canny use of newly built modern architecture in and around Paris transports the audience to the off-kilter narrative terrain. More and more words are banned on a daily basis. Male citizens are publicly exterminated at a ratio of 50 to one against females. "Brainwashed agitators" are sent to other galaxies.

Alphaville (1965) and the Absurdities of Cinema – Jean-Luc Godard. –  Celluloid Wicker Man

The ruddy-faced Eddie Constantine plays Ivan Johnson a.k.a. Lemmy Caution. Pretending to be a journalist working on assignment for Figaro-Pravda, Lemmy acts on a mission to assassinate Alphaville's mastermind, Professor Vonbraun, before dismantling the Alpha 60 computer brain.


By his own admission, Lemmy is in love with "gold and women." The chain-smoking Constantine provides an unattractive version of the Philip Marlowe archetype. Tongue-in-cheek humor is also at play. Mr. Johnson arrives through "galactic space" in white Ford Mustang he asserts is a "Ford Galaxie." Direct references to Dick Tracy and Flash Gordon come with a knowing wink of earnest delivery.

Un universo de Ciencia Ficción: 1965- LEMMY CONTRA ALPHAVILLE – Jean-Luc  Godard

The enigmatic Anna Karina plays Natasha Vonbraun, a flirty call-girl spy who also happens to be Vonbraun's renegade daughter. Romantic sparks fly between Lemmy and Natasha. Natasha is curious about the "outer countries" that she hopes Lemmy will help her escape to.


Many aspects of Goddard's pop culture treatise come across as heavy-handed and naive. The Alpha 60 computer asks Lemmy, "What transforms darkness into light"? The tired protagonist combatively responds, "poetry." Goddard’s gutter intellectual is essentially flipping the bird at the machine that could crush him like a bug. It's a final act of defiance that pays off for our hero because he's just plain meaner than anyone else in the movie.

"Alphaville" is a cinematic touchstone that influenced films such as "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Brazil," "Blade Runner" and "The Matrix." Modern audiences may be tempted to overlook the significance of Goddard's groundbreaking vision, but that doesn't detract from its lasting influence on film and on popular culture.

Alphaville (1965) | Blu-ray release - Jean-Luc Godard's film-noir sci-fi  homage | Movie Talk | What's on TV

Not Rated. 99 mins.

5 Stars

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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