Those who keep up with my personal life will remember that I finally declared a film major. For many, this came as a surprise since I am still not really sure how to open the camera on my iPhone, but I’ve thought it was a natural fit from the beginning. It hasn’t been without its pitfalls, though—like any niche in our society, joining the ranks of film majors comes with its difficulties and unrealistic expectations. Trying to fit those has been exhausting, and so I feel I’m finally ready to come forward and say it: I don’t understand the films of the French New Wave.
This must come as a shock. You’re probably leaping out of the Deece chair you’re sitting in and screaming. Some of you are probably tearing up the Misc as we speak, but I’m done hiding it. I don’t get French New Wave, and honestly, I don’t think I have to in order to be a good film major.
I can see the raised fingers and hear the “well, actually”’s as I type this, so let me clarify: I do understand French New Wave’s historical context, but I still don’t get the movies themselves. So you can pipe down with your “everybody knows they were rebelling against the Tradition of Quality” and your, “it creates a cinematic language all on its own responding to the ubiquity of Classical Hollywood Narrative.” I know those things, you know those things, everybody knows those things. We learn those things at an early age, in preschool even: how to tie our shoes, how to carry a cup with two hands and how the intricacies of the regulations placed on the French film industry by the U.S. Government after World War II later gave rise to opportunities for New Wave directors. We’ve all heard
this a million times. That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is I don’t understand the weird cuts and the so-called “storylines” that loosely tie these films together. Why do I have to watch a boy run for so long? I don’t want to look at him running for so long. I want a nice, coherent narrative that I can sit and laugh at and cry with—and the crying absolutely cannot be due to boredom or confusion.
Maybe I’m being narrow-minded or reactionary or whatever, but it seems to me that the French New Wave just isn’t that interesting. I’m done pretending to care about Jean Luc Godard or Francois Truffaut when I could be paying attention to French things I really care about, like pastries and cheese.
Although, I just gotta say, I think some patissieres are really taking it too far. What is wrong with a regular chocolate éclair? All of a sudden mille-feuille have all sorts of wild colors on top of them and there’s croquembouche built to look like the Hogwarts castle. When I go into a patisserie, I want a nice, simple eclair that I can recognize all the ingredients in, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask for. It’s impressive enough that the patisserie got the puff pastry to puff, so why do they have to be so extra and mirror glaze every single item they sell?
So I guess I don’t like the French New Wave films or French baking, but you know what, I don’t have to like every movie or filled bun that comes my way. I can pick and choose, and I choose not to be confused by weird close-ups or repeated shots or deconstructed chocolate raspberry tarts. Leave the tarts and the movies constructed, and I will be happy. Just because I don’t want the mundanities of everyday life shoved in my face at 24 frames per second doesn’t mean I don’t have taste.