French New Wave

French New Wave

45 Episodes

There was cinema before the French New Wave, and there was cinema after. The explosion of creative innovation that emanated from France in the late 1950s and early ’60s forever altered the course of film history by opening up new avenues of stylistic experimentation and trumpeting the concept of the “auteur” director, whose aesthetic vision and thematic obsessions took center stage. Led by a coterie of passionate film critics and cinephiles who took up cameras—including the radical Jean-Luc Godard (BREATHLESS, PIERROT LE FOU), the romantic François Truffaut (THE 400 BLOWS, JULES AND JIM), the restless Agnès Varda (CLÉO FROM 5 TO 7, LE BONHEUR), the experimental Jacques Rivette (PARIS BELONGS TO US, CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING), the modernist Alain Resnais (HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR), and the classicist Eric Rohmer (MY NIGHT AT MAUD’S, CLAIRE’S KNEE)—the French New Wave inspired filmmakers around the world by liberating cinema from commercial demands and reclaiming it in the name of unfettered personal expression.

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French New Wave
  • French New Wave: In Their Own Words

    Episode 1

    In this program created in 2021 from archival interviews, directors Jean-Pierre Melville, Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Louis Malle, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Demy, and Agnès Varda discuss their work.

  • French New Wave Teaser

    Episode 2

  • La Pointe Courte

    Episode 3

    Directed by Agnès Varda • 1955 • France
    Starring Silvia Monfort, Philippe Noiret

    The great Agnès Varda’s film career began with this graceful, penetrating study of a marriage on the rocks, set against the backdrop of a small Mediterranean fishing village. Both a stylized depiction of the complic...

  • Elevator to the Gallows

    Episode 4

    Directed by Louis Malle • 1958 • France
    Starring Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet, Georges Poujouly

    For his feature debut, twenty-four-year-old Louis Malle brought together a mesmerizing performance by Jeanne Moreau, evocative cinematography by Henri Decaë, and a now legendary jazz score by Miles Da...

  • Le beau Serge

    Episode 5

    Directed by Claude Chabrol • 1958 • France
    Starring Jean‑Claude Brialy, Gérard Blain

    Of the hallowed group of “Cahiers du cinéma” critics turned filmmakers who transformed French film history, Claude Chabrol was the first to direct his own feature. His absorbing landmark debut, LE BEAU SERGE (“H...

  • The Lovers

    Episode 6

    Directed by Louis Malle • 1958 • France
    Starring Jeanne Moreau, Jean-Marc Bory

    Louis Malle unveiled the natural beauty of Jeanne Moreau in his breakthrough, ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS. With his follow-up, the scandalous smash THE LOVERS (LES AMANTS), he made her a star once and for all. A deeply fe...

  • The 400 Blows

    Episode 7

    Directed by François Truffaut • 1959 • France
    Starring Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Rémy

    François Truffaut’s first feature is also his most personal. Told through the eyes of Truffaut’s cinematic counterpart, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), THE 400 BLOWS sensitively re-creates t...

  • Hiroshima mon amour

    Episode 8

    Directed by Alain Resnais • 1959 • France, Japan
    Starring Emmanuelle Riva, Eiji Okada

    A cornerstone of the French New Wave, the first feature from Alain Resnais is one of the most influential films of all time. A French actress (Emmanuelle Riva) and a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada) engage in a ...

  • Les cousins

    Episode 9

    Directed by Claude Chabrol • 1959 • France
    Starring Jean-Claude Brialy, Gérard Blain

    In LES COUSINS (“The Cousins”), Claude Chabrol crafts a sly moral fable about a provincial boy who comes to live with his sophisticated bohemian cousin in Paris. Through these seeming opposites, Chabrol conjures...

  • Breathless

    Episode 10

    Directed by Jean-Luc Godard • France • 1960
    Starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg, Daniel Boulanger

    There was before BREATHLESS, and there was after BREATHLESS. Jean-Luc Godard burst onto the film scene in 1960 with this jazzy, free-form, and sexy homage to the American film genres that inspi...

  • Shoot the Piano Player

    Episode 11

    Directed by François Truffaut • 1960 • France
    Starring Charles Aznavour, Marie Dubois, Nicole Berger

    François Truffaut is drunk on the possibilities of cinema in this, his most playful film. Part thriller, part comedy, part tragedy, SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER relates the adventures of mild-mannered ...

  • Zazie dans le métro

    Episode 12

    Directed by Louis Malle • 1960 • France
    Starring Catherine Demongeot, Philippe Noiret

    A brash and precocious ten-year-old (Catherine Demongeot) comes to Paris for a whirlwind weekend with her rakish uncle (Philippe Noiret); he and the viewer get more than they bargained for, however, in this ana...

  • Lola
    1:28:45
    Episode 13

    Lola

    Episode 13

    Directed by Jacques Demy • 1961 • France, Italy
    Starring Anouk Aimée, Marc Michel

    Jacques Demy’s crystalline debut gave birth to the fictional universe in which so many of his characters would live, play, and love. It’s among his most profoundly felt films, a tale of crisscrossing lives in Nante...

  • Chronicle of a Summer

    Episode 14

    Directed by Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin • 1961 • France

    Few films can claim as much influence on the course of cinema history as CHRONICLE OF A SUMMER. The fascinating result of a collaboration between filmmaker-anthropologist Jean Rouch and sociologist Edgar Morin, this vanguard work of what Mor...

  • Paris Belongs to Us

    Episode 15

    Directed by Jacques Rivette • 1961 • France
    Starring Betty Schneider, François Maistre, Giani Esposito

    One of the original critics turned filmmakers who helped jump-start the French New Wave, Jacques Rivette began shooting his debut feature in 1958, well before that cinema revolution officially ...

  • A Woman Is a Woman

    Episode 16

    Directed by Jean-Luc Godard • 1961 • France
    Starring Anna Karina, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean-Claude Brialy

    With A WOMAN IS A WOMAN, compulsively innovative director Jean-Luc Godard presents “a neorealist musical—that is, a contradiction in terms.” Featuring French superstars Anna Karina, Jean-Paul...

  • Cléo from 5 to 7

    Episode 17

    Directed by Agnès Varda • 1962 • France
    Starring Corinne Marchand, Antoine Bourseiller, Dominique Davray

    Agnès Varda eloquently captures Paris in the sixties with this real-time portrait of a singer (Corinne Marchand) set adrift in the city as she awaits test results of a biopsy. A chronicle of ...

  • Jules and Jim

    Episode 18

    Directed by François Truffaut • 1962 • France
    Starring Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner, Henri Serre

    Hailed as one of the finest films ever made, JULES AND JIM charts, over twenty-five years, the relationship between two friends and the object of their mutual obsession. The legendary François Truffau...

  • Vivre sa vie

    Episode 19

    Directed by Jean-Luc Godard • 1962 • France
    Starring Anna Karina, Sady Rebbot, André Labarthe

    VIVRE SA VIE (a.k.a. MY LIFE TO LIVE) was a turning point for Jean-Luc Godard and remains one of his most dynamic films, combining brilliant visual design with a tragic character study. The lovely Anna ...

  • The Fire Within

    Episode 20

    Directed by Louis Malle • 1963 • France
    Starring Maurice Ronet, Léna Skerla, Jeanne Moreau

    After garnering international acclaim for such seminal crowd-pleasers as THE LOVERS and ZAZIE DANS LE MÉTRO, Louis Malle gave his fans a shock with THE FIRE WITHIN (LE FEU FOLLET), a penetrating study of i...

  • Muriel, or The Time of Return

    Episode 21

    Directed by Alain Resnais • 1963 • France
    Starring Delphine Seyrig, Jean-Pierre Kérien, Nita Klein

    Alain Resnais's MURIEL, OR THE TIME OF RETURN, the director's follow-up to LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, is as radical a reflection on the nature of time and memory as its predecessor. The always luminou...

  • Bay of Angels

    Episode 22

    Directed by Jacques Demy • 1963 • France
    Starring Jeanne Moreau, Claude Mann

    This precisely wrought, emotionally penetrating romantic drama from Jacques Demy, set largely in the casinos of Nice, is a visually lovely but darkly realistic investigation into love and obsession. A bottle-blonde Jean...

  • Contempt

    Episode 23

    Directed by Jean-Luc Godard • 1963 • France
    Starring Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli, Jack Palance

    Jean-Luc Godard’s subversive foray into commercial filmmaking is a star-studded Cinemascope epic. CONTEMPT stars Michel Piccoli as a screenwriter torn between the demands of a proud European direct...

  • Suzanne’s Career

    Episode 24

    Directed by Eric Rohmer • 1963 • France

    Bertrand bides his time in a casually hostile and envious friendship with college chum Guillaume. But when ladies' man Guillaume seems to be making a play for the spirited, independent Suzanne, Bertrand watches bitterly with disapproval and jealousy. With ...