Paris vu Par: Godard gathers up his friends to show us Paris.
With all my cinematic meanderings my inner boomerang (it’s an Aussie thing) will always bring me back to my beloved French New Wave. Despite my passion for Bergman and my adoration of the Czech New Wave, Godard ‘does it for me’ in every conceivable way. He is the right balance of all things a film should be, entertaining, stimulating with just a dash of pushing me over the edge. He’s my favourite director because there is a place deep inside of me that vibrates at his touch – a yawp that answers his call.
This isn’t a great film by any definition of that term, but it does have the hall marks of the French New Wave plastered all over it. Entertaining, interesting plot lines with petit twists to excite the intellect, muted color to enhance subtlety and that all important trust in the view who they greatly respect.
Paris Vu Par is Six in Paris. That is what this is, an omnibus films. Six small films by the best directors in France at the time, overseen all the way by Godard himself. The line up is:
“La Muette” Directed by Claude Chabrol
- Stéphane Audran as The mother
- Claude Chabrol as The father
- Gilles Chusseau as Boy
- Dany Saril as The maid
“Saint-Germain-des-Prés” Directed by Jean Douchet
“Montparnasse-Levallois” Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
“Rue Saint-Denis” Directed by Jean-Daniel Pollet
“Place de l’Etoile” Directed by Eric Rohmer
- Marcel Gallon as Victim
- Jean-Michel Rouzière as Jean-Marc
- Georges Bez
- Jean Douchet as A client
- Sarah Georges-Picot
- Maya Josse as Woman in the metro
- Philippe Sollers as A client
“Gare du Nord” Directed by Jean Rouch
By the mid-1960s, there were signs that the French New Wave had all but run its course. Its leading lights – François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette and Claude Chabrol, had each suffered major box office failures in the preceding years and it looked as if their innovative approach to filmmaking had exhausted its novelty value. Producer Barbet Schroeder conceived Paris vu par… as a means of promoting, if not re-launching, the French New Wave, at a time when La Nouvelle Vague was beginning to look distinctly passée.
Schroeder’s instinct was (as was the case many times in his career as a director and independent film producer) proven to be correct. Paris vu par… all set in different parts of Paris, beautifully evokes the sense of the French New Wave from six different perspectives. It gives us the caustic anti-bourgeois humor of Chabrol, the quirky anarchy and misogyny of Godard, a witty moral tale from Rohmer, and three engaging short films from some lesser known but nonetheless influential figures of the French New Wave: Jean Douchet, Jean-Daniel Pollet and Jean Rouch.
The six film are different in style, but still form a coherent whole representing a style of cinema that is genuinely timeless and just as engaging to witness today as it was in the 60’s. Each film accurately represents its director as well as a different aspect of Paris. The first film – directed by Jean Douchet – is closest to what most people would recognise as a Nouvelle Vague film: an ironic and witty portrait of young love in the Latin Quarter, home to the city’s Sartre-quoting, Galloise-smoking intelligentsia. This is probably the best of the six films, although Chabrol’s offering (in which the director appears alongside his then wife, Stéphane Audran, looking like the married couple from Hell) is the most memorable, if only for its dark humor and a death scene which is simultaneously shocking and hilarious.
It would be pushing it to say that Paris vu par… single-handedly reversed the declining fortunes of the French New Wave. However, it is true that in the years following the making of this film, all of the major Nouvelle Vague directors discovered a new lease of life and would continue to have a major impact on French cinema.