French New Wave and Poetic Realism Essays

French New Wave and Poetic Realism Essays

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Since the very first actualities from the Lumière brothers and the fantastical shorts of Maries Georges Jean Méliès, cinema has continually fulfilled its fundamental purpose of artistic reflection on societal contexts throughout the evolution of film. Two French cinematic movements, Poetic Realism (1934-1940) and French New Wave (1950-1970), serve as historical bookends to World War II, one of the most traumatic events in world history. The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939) is a classic example of French Poetic realism that depicts the disillusionment in society and government politics by a generation already traumatized by the monumental loss of human life during the First World War. Breathless (Jean Luc Godard, 1960), one of Jean Luc Godard’s most iconic films, portrays the next generation’s consequential feelings of loss and struggle. Both Rules of the Game and Breathless embody the spirit of their respective movements while exploring realism and redefining the purpose of cinema. However, while Rules of the Game contrasts the formative and realistic traditions through long takes and deep focus, Breathless breaks cinematic conventions through distanciation techniques and disjunctive editing to convey disillusionment and cinematic realism. Though these techniques and definitions of realism are seemingly oppositional, Godard and Renoir both hold to the same cinematic purpose of communicating their feelings of disillusionment towards society with the audience.
The Rules of the Game embodies the isolation, disillusionment, bitterness, and nostalgia portrayed during the Poetic Realism or French Impressionist cinematic movement (1934-1940) by contrasting the realistic and formative traditions. The Rules of the Game follows a nar...


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...use of documentary style lighting and discontinuous editing that diverges from the Hollywood “invisible” editing. Through understanding the historical climates these two seemingly similar French cinematic movements were in, the psychology of a generation can be visualized in a way truly unique to the indexicality of the cinematic medium.





Works Cited

Bazin, Andre. “Evolution of the Language of Cinema.” What is Cinema Volume 1, edited and translated by Hugh Gray, 23-40. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1967.
Corrigan, T., & White, P. (2012). The Film Experience: An Introduction: Bedford/St. Martin's.
Kracauer, Siegfried. “Basic Concepts,” from Theory of Film. In Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, Seventh Edition, edited by Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen, 147–58. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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