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Monday, August 28, 2017

Plus ça change

Va savoir. Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

The iconic directors of the French New Wave changed the future of film when they blasted on screen in the 1950s and 1960s, which were characterized by a rebellion of standard practices, experimental filmmaking, and social issue exploration. These French New Wave auteurs have continued to push the envelope into the 2000s, revealing how they changed and adopted the styles, politics, and technologies of the 21st century. BAMcinématek’s new series, Plus ça change, loosely translated means “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” which perfectly encompasses late-career feature films from titans like Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, Jacques Rivette, and Agnès Varda.

Jean-Luc Godard is arguably the best-known director to emerge from the French New Wave, particularly after his groundbreaking 1960 debut, Breathless. His last two features, Film Socialisme and Goodbye to Language screen as part of the film series. Both of these movies continue to depict Godard’s experimental, playful narrative and eclectic visual style, illustrating the auteur’s status as “a man who has given his life to cinema...and profoundly changed the history of cinema.”

Often cited as having created the first film of the French New Wave, short Le Coup de Berger, Jacques Rivette continued directing late into his career until his death only last year. Rivette has two films screening in the series—Va Savoir and The Duchess of Langeais, which continue to expand upon familiar themes and his career-long fascination with theater, performance, and shifting realities.

Wild Grass. Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Alain Resnais remained a prolific director well in his 80s; three out of the five features he made in the 21st century will screen: Wild GrassYou Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet and Life of Riley. His imagination and cinematic form run wild in these three strangely charming and charmingly strange features, deftly combining and dancing with different genres like comedy, romance and drama.

The idiosyncratic “left bank” rebel, Agnès Varda directs two documentaries in the series, The Gleaners & I and The Beaches of Agnès. In her late career, Varda has become more introspective and retrospective. Both wonderful self-portraits explore her life to create visual autobiographies that will delight fans with their whimsy, warmth, and poignancy.

Other powerhouses like Éric Rohmer, Chris Marker, and Claude Chabrol round out the film series, to hopefully fill gaps in your French New Wave and auteur education, or merit another look. Plus ça change: French New Wave in the New Millennium runs from September 8—17 at BAM Rose Cinemas.

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