If we are to be completely honest with ourselves we should be able to admit that we owe our tastes to someone. Family maybe, friends, for sure, and probably to that one, older, vaguely pygmalionic someone who gave us books and movies and music (that we just MUST READ) which we then devoured not ever realizing that we were adopting their tastes and cocktail party chatter as our own.
So, in an ongoing effort to improve your life and minimize emotional scars that such relationships inevitably lead to, BYT is offering a surrogate “Older Boyfriend” column where we will basically lead you through basics of certain genres and cultural conversation topic without having to endure the Henry Higgins/Eliza Doolittle post-effect of it all.
We will kick the series off with French New Wave since it is the 50th year anniversary of Godard’s “Breathless” and taking you to see the newly restored movie @ AFI (playing for one week only this week) is exactly something the right kind of older boyfriend would do.
Afterwards as you moon over Jean Paul Belmondo’s loosely held cigarettes and Jean Seberg’s clothes/hair and their witty/louche repartee, and archetypical hipsterness
these would be the movies he’d suggest you see afterwards in order to really understand the youthful icography of French moviemaking in the 50s and the 60s, hand picked by some of our finest (french movie) minds here at BYT HQ. All feature the necessary Nouvelle vague signs: improvised dialogue, modest budgets, jump cuts, creative equipment use, beautiful people, movie posters you want to hang on your walls and more.
Breathless (À bout de souffle): The emblematic 1960 film, directed by Jean-Luc Godard, tells the story of a young delinquent, Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo), who’s on the run from police, and his relationship with his lover, American student Patricia Franchini (Jean Seberg). For its 50th anniversary, “Breathless” has been beautifully restored and is now playing at the American Film Institute Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, Md.
Don’t miss your chance to see the film on the big screen. It’s quite something.
Cleo from 5 to 7 (Cléo de 5 à 7): Agnès Varda’s 1962 Rive Gauche film recounts hours in the life of a young, beautiful singer, Florence “Cléo” Victoire (Corinne Marchand), who strolls around Paris, reflecting on her self-image, as she waits for the results of an important biopsy.
Hiroshima mon amour: The 1959 drama, by director Alain Resnais, is the story of a passionate one-night stand and the intimate conversations shared between a married French actress (Emmanuelle Riva), referred to as Elle (she), and a married Japanese architect (Eiji Okada), referred to as Lui (him).
The 400 Blows. Remember when you were a teenager and no one understood the real you? Yeah, well, turns out you’re not the only one. For decades, adolescents all over the world have felt just like us when we were that age. Don’t believe me? Then how about we watch Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, in which young Antoine Doinel’s attempts at earnestness are met with mockery and derision. The ending is hopeless, sure, but at least you’re not alone.
Elevator to the Gallows. So maybe you need a reprieve from angst, and crave an superlative genre exercise. Then let’s watch this Louis Malles movie, in which an cool-as-ice adulterer finds himself trapped in an elevator during a most inopportune time. You know Louis Malle, right? He directed My Dinner with Andre. Oh, you haven’t seen that either? Well we can watch that when we have our experimental dialogue-heavy movie marathon.
Le Samourai. Now you’ve got a taste for French thrillers, let’s try one a little more austere. Jean-Pierre Melville (my favorite New Wave director, incidentally) made this lean thriller starring Alain Delon, an improbably good-looking actor. Here he’s got a stone face, and handles every problem with samurai-like precision. With an emphasis on style over substance, I can see how you might be off-put. But you gotta admit Melville has minimalism down pat.
Jules and Jim: Truffaut’s iconic movie follows two good friends Jules (the shy one) and Jim (the more extroverted one) who share a love of art, bohemian lifestyle and later on, a love of Catherine (played luminously by Jeanne Moreau, radiating the kind of cerebral yet free spirited sexuality that is synonimous with women in Nouvelle vague movies), who seems to be a doppelganger of a Goddess statue they both romantically fell in love with at the very start of the movie. War, heartbreak and the only other inevitable thing in the world (aside from taxes) ensue.
Masculin, Feminin: Godard’s movie about Paris, Sex & The Soda pop Generation in which Jean Pierre Leaud (probably the other most recognizable male face of the genre) as a young bon vivant enamored with a pop star embarks on a very liberally minded menage a quatre with her and her two roommates, it is a perfect cultural snapshot of European life and everything young people seemed so desperate to prove at the time. The movie’s most famous quote is actually an intertitle between chapters: “This film could be called The Children of Marx and Coca Cola”