I was too young to have watched the films when originally released. Which do you recommend? Which directors do you like, and why?
François Truffaut, Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol were the most accessible out the group. Truffaut's "400 Blows" and "Jules and Jim" tend to be the most popular.
Godard was the enfant terrible of the French New Wave and his latter period he became more didactic, anti-conformist and Neo-Brechtian. If you start with Godard it's best to watch his films in order, starting with "Breathless," to get an idea what type of filmmaker he is in general. He's my favorite out the New Wave because he makes you respond to his films analytically rather than emotionally -- something he learned from Bertol Brecht. He was postmodern before there was postmodernism with the way he borrowed from high and low culture, experiment with form, deconstruct genres, and doing this all with a self-conscious, satirical, ironic style that was completely original.
François Truffaut once said there was cinema before Godard and cinema after Godard, and I pretty much agree with him. Roger Ebert once wrote that modern cinema began with "Breathless." Pauline Kael (who wrote some of the best reviews about Godard's earlier films) said he was the closet thing cinema has to a James Joyce. Plus, most of the major directors you can think of were influenced by Godard. Scorsese, Tarantino, Stone, Soderbergh, DePalma, and many others were all influenced by him. He is without a doubt an elder statesmen of film.
I'm not really fond of his films post-"Weekend," but I love most of his films in the 60s such as "Breathless," Pierrot Le Fou," "My Life to Live," "Alphaville," "A Band of Outsides," "Two or Three Things I Know About Her."
Love Truffaut's 400 Blows, Shoot the Piano Player and Jules et Jim.... Also, Hiroshima Mon Amour was quite excellent. Goddard was a little irritating at times but still made some iconic films. Contempt, Band of Outsiders, Breathless... But Truffaut was truly the most breathtaking to me.
Breathless is a must.
I took a film course my senior year of college, and we had a watch it.
"I took a film course my senior year of college, and we had a watch it."
Are you Italian?
Masculin/Feminin shows off most the New Wave techniques, has an interesting story and characters and a nice quiet shock at the end.
It can be a great intro to this era.
Godard made two of my favorite New Wave films: Breathless and Her Life to Live. I disagree with R1 in the sense that I respond quite emotionally to both of these films. In particular, try to watch the "Joan of Arc" scene in Her Life to Live without being moved.
Jules and Jim, The Wild Child, The Story of Adele H., and The Green Room are my favorite Truffaut films. I found Masculin/Feminin to be utterly boring. Other films like The Bride Wore Black and Missippi Mermaid border on the ridiculous/campy.
I've seen maybe about 8 or 9 Godard films and I find them enjoyable only in bits and pieces. Parts of his films seem really amazing and brilliant, yet other parts seem come across childish.
But I will say this: Jean-Pierre Léaud was never sexier than when he appeared in Godard films.
Overall, though, I'd rather watch something directed by Claude Chabrol.
Her Life to Live = My life to live
Vivre Sa Vie = To Live Her Life
OP, you have many hours of wonderful movies to enjoy. Others have already mentioned Truffaut and Godard....I would add Jacques Demy (Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and someone who influenced some of the New Wavers....Jean-Pierre Melville (just about any of his movies).
"Cleo From 5 to 7" is also quite good.
[quote]"Cleo From 5 to 7" is also quite good.
I love the song.