Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Two in the Wave (2010)


This is not a popular thing to say, but I've never cared much for Jean-Luc Godard's films. A few I flat out hate (like A Woman is a Woman from 1961) and others I'm indifferent to (Breathless). But one that I absolutely am in love with is Pierrot le Fou (1965). His star, Anna Karina, has a quality that I can't describe in words. But it is a quality that I've only seen in three actresses all throughout the history of film. Those three are Audrey Hepburn, Anna Karina and Audrey Tautou. 

One of my favorite directors of all time is Fran├žois Truffaut. I've seen most of his films and haven't hated or been indifferent to a single one. His Antoine Doinel series is one of cinemas great character studies. The first film in the series, The 400 Blows (1959) is in my top ten favorite films of all time. 

Both of these directors are the subject of the documentary Two in the Wave (2010). They were both equally important to the French New Wave film movement. The fact that I don't care much for Godard is completely irrelevant. He is one of the most important filmmakers in history and he's still alive and making films in his 80s. 

Two in the Wave begins with the death of Truffaut. He died in 1984 of a brain tumor. When he died, Godard was told that there would no longer be anyone who would protect him. This documentary is mostly about their friendship and working relationship. But it strays far from that topic quite a bit and ends up sort of all over the place. It's still interesting for those interested in film history. But if you don't already know about French cinema, you'll probably get lost several times throughout the duration. 

There is quite a bit of emphasis on film criticism, which made me happy. They talk a lot about Andre Bazin, who is considered one of the most respected and influential film critics of the 1940's and 1950's. Truffaut's The 400 Blows is actually dedicated to him. It seems to me that if a filmmaker dedicated his film to a critic today, they would be lambasted for trying to bribe them into giving them a good review. Fortunately for Bazin, he died before the film was released.

The film also deals in great length with other french filmmakers of the time like Eric Rohmer. It really should have been called A Bunch in the Wave. After about the first half hour the film begins to focus. There is some amazing footage of the directors. One in particular that I found fascinating was Godard talking to Fritz Lang. As I watched I started to realize that talking about all of these other filmmakers was important because Truffaut and Godard were both influenced by so many great directors. Even American directors like Howard Hawks and Nicholas Ray. 

I learned quite a bit from watching this. Even though their friendship ended before Truffaut's death, it was interesting to see how Godard and Truffaut would always help each other out, despite their differences. Truffaut wrote the screenplay for Breathless and they co-directed a short film together, A Story of Water (1958). Their camaraderie sort of reminds me of Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and Eli Roth. The great thing is that these guys care as much about the movies as Truffaut and Godard. It's not just a job, it's a way of life. So for them to create these same kind of relationships half a century later, is pretty remarkable. I'm almost willing to bet that they don't see the connection. But great art is timeless and universal. And history keeps repeating itself. 


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