As film-lovers, or those who simply want to sit down and watch a film to unwind, the way Cinema has impacted the way movies are made now is quite extensive. The history of Cinema spans decades and decades across a multitude of countries, and going over it all requires a lot of time and effort. With that said, it can be overwhelming on where to exactly start when wanting to learn about film history. But, luckily, this is where French Cinema comes in.
In terms of where to start in terms of the history of French Cinema, let’s talk about a brief overview (and an appreciation for the film since I truly can’t help myself) of the film that sparked a fire in me to write this article: the darling and rather iconic 2001 film ‘Amélie’.
Amélie: What An Odd Girl
Now, I want to point out that ‘Amélie’ was officially released in theaters in November 2001; but it didn’t receive much initial recognition in North America due to wide releases only remaining in Europe. However, it’s thanks to the 2002 Golden Globes and the 2002 Academy Awards for nominating ‘Amélie’ and bringing forth that recognition to finally bring it to North American distribution. This is actually one of the many reasons why the film itself is so impressive. Now, let’s move into discussing the actual film.
‘Amélie’, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, is a widely-acclaimed French film that is mainly known for its influential nostalgia, along with referencing cliche French childhood memories and an ode to French history as a whole. Story-wise, the plot of the film follows Amélie; an adorable yet terribly shy girl who accidentally discovers that she has a gift for helping others. Through this newfound power, Amélie assists the people around her with beautiful aspects of life like matchmaking and being a guardian angel. However, when she suddenly bumps into a rather “handsome” stranger, Amélie is faced with the choice to become essentially the main star of her own love story.
With reading the story alone, coupled with the fact that The New York Times lists ‘Amélie’ as number 27 on the “Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made”, it’s clear to see that the film is exquisitely charming and a rather unexpected rom-com; but, it’s important to note that Amélie remains her own person with her own dimensional personality as well, so her story is simply more than rom-com at the same time. On top of this, there is also the element of how innovative the presentation within this film was due to its use of telling the action in a story primarily through voice; which was something that hadn’t been seen before in French films.
Interestingly enough, ‘Amélie’ is just one of many amazing French films that influenced the way future Cinematic masterpieces would be created through a multitude of ways. More specifically, how the French New Wave in the late 50s is a prominent feature of Cinema history that deserves a myriad of appreciation and adoration.
Breaking The Tide With The French New Wave
The French New Wave originated in the late 1950s and is commonly known for being one of the first waves of Cinema history. The wave mainly consists of editing techniques that broke the rules of film at the time, such as creating the montage and using jump cuts within a scene. The term of the French New Wave was formed from four main French film critics and cinephiles associated with the magazine Cahiers du Cinéma, and then it soon became populized through French directors: François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Éric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, Agnès Varda, and Claude Chabrol. The techniques used by these directors entirely broke the normalized convention of film at the time, and it ultimately widely influenced others in creating their films.
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When talking about the French New Wave, there are an endless amount of films that can be discussed. For instance, the most popular films to come out of this time are instant classics that you can find on almost every avid film-lovers watchlist (or list of films they’ve already seen). Films such as ‘Breathless’ (directed by Jean-Luc Godard) and ‘Cleo From 5 to 7’ (Agnès Varda) immediately come to my mind when discussing French New Wave films; but, of course, there are lists upon lists that you can find to see all of the different kinds of films there are in this category. Overall, no matter the genre, these films one way or another had somehow broken the seemingly already established rules of Cinema.
On the other hand, Cinema is such a wonderful and powerful form of media; and it’s ultimately so subjective in terms of one’s viewing pleasure. From a personal standpoint (and I do hope at least some of you would agree with me), out of all the different film waves throughout Cinema history, the French New Wave is completely the most influential. It was truly such a risk to go out and make movies that were so new and possibly daunting to audiences; but, it all worked out in the end.
A Shy Girl In A Cinematic World
There is justice and truthfulness in saying that French Cinema is something magical. They’ve remained a faithful reputation in creating continuous positively influential films, and their films only seem to be getting better with time (a recent example being the new Netflix Original film ‘Dear Mother’). Of course, based on what we’ve discussed within this article, a lot of this is due in part to the French New Wave being the magnificent catalyst to creating the overall art that is French Cinema. Especially modern French Cinema.
‘Amélie’ is a wonderful example when looking back on modern French Cinema. By telling us a story through voice to emphasize actions, it creates a storybook feel and enthralls us as audience members. The reminiscent tone of nostalgia mixed in with a familiarity of French childhood for French audiences is conveyed so perfectly within ‘Amélie’ that it can also be entirely relatable to those living in the States as well (or just about anyone, really). There’s no doubt in my mind about how much love and appreciation ‘Amélie’ deserves to receive.
Universally, I like to think that we all want to feel the emotions of what a film, or TV series, is trying to convey to us. There’s a tone and theme to them that the creators want you to feel, and when we get to actually experience that feeling it’s incredible. ‘Amélie’ accomplishes this aspect so tremendously, and it feels largely thanks to where it all began with the French New Wave.
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As I said before, French Cinema is worthy of getting praise for all that it’s accomplished over these past few decades, and its films are only going to get better from here. And, the fact that ‘Amélie’ was released only 21 years ago feels insane because it only just feels like yesterday when audiences first experienced this once shy girl into a blossoming character in charge of her own story.
By Leah Donato
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