The ‘New’ French New Wave – Cannes 2012

Cannes, May 2012. With its Croisette manicured to within an each of its life, luxury hotels full to breaking point and enough Premier Cru to float a stranded cruise liner, it can only mean one thing… the arrival of the 65th Cannes Film Festival.

Kicking off today, the film world (and other disciples who may not yet know their Yves Attal from their Yves St Laurent) will descend upon the infamous small French port marking the start of 11 days of film, frocks, fashion and folly.

Cannes Film Festival 16 - 27 May 2012

Premiered at last year’s festival was the global film phenomenon The Artist, winning the film’s lead, Jean Dujardin, the Best Male Actor award. Similarly the festival’s coveted Jury Prize went to independent French film maker Maiwenn for her film Polisse. With other home-grown hits such as Intouchable creating unprecedented interested at home and abroad, France’s cinema attendance was the highest in Europe with 215.6 million entries last year, a figure that has not been that high since 1966.

The French press attribute this success to a new generation rising within the film industry; a new movement that not only counts film makers among the ranks but also actors and producers.  Writing in the Le Figaro, film critic Jean Luc Wachthausen believes that ‘their daring, tenacity and creativity have paid off. Determined to see their ideas followed through, their simple aim of making a good film has been achieved.’ With many of these films being self-financed, the worry of risk-taking too has also been eliminated, allowing them to break the rules and not conform to conventional methods of film production.

Others assign this change to a new style of cinema that mixes the production values and codes of commercial film with the more esoteric aesthetics of film d’auteur (independent films written and directed by the same person). Re-defining the cinema landscape, these films are made efficiently with the needs of the storyline paramount. Cast with actors who represent the cultural mix of French society today, they boast high production values – that may not be recognised in minute detail by the film-going public – but are still appreciated more than the television-style dramas that have preceded them. As such French cinema, freed from its bi-polarity, can add a new type of film that neither belongs exclusively to the independent film genre (Film Socialisme) or the high grossing popular comedies (Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis) as witnessed with the arrival of Polisse or La Guerre est Declarée.

However whilst the press are only too happy to congratulate themselves, many French film makers seem to be trying their best to distance themselves from the label ‘le cinema francais’. In an article published in French magazine Les Inrockuptibles last year, Michel Hazanavicius (director of The Artist) felt that he did not represent French cinema. Similarly, French-Haitian director, Djinn Carrénard, ‘maverick’ director of the acclaimed Donoma states his films go against the ‘dominant’ model of current French cinema – a ‘de-politicised’ style of film that is more likely to amuse than provoke thought and debate.  Moreover award-winning director Mathieu Kassovitz (La Haine) recently tweeted that French cinema needs to go ‘f**k itself’ following the omission of his latest film from the nominations at France’s recent Cesar (Film) Awards. From established directors to ‘guerrilla’ film makers, the term French Cinema conjures up images of a formulaic cinema, created by those who ascribe to a ‘foreign’ or American style of writing of which they do not want to be associated.

It all sounds rather confusing and could be something unique to France. Can you imagine many American directors trying to disassociate themselves so comprehensively from the US canon? Nonetheless, what it does show is the variety and diversity of film making culture currently being enjoyed in France – which can only benefit and enrich film makers and film lovers everywhere.

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~ by cinemalicious on May 16, 2012.

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