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Stream Them Now: Get Your French New Wave Education with 9 Films Available to Stream on Hulu Plus

Stream Them Now: Get Your French New Wave Education with 9 Films Available to Stream on Hulu Plus

From Wes Anderson to Steven Soderbergh, contemporary filmmakers are often unambiguously influenced by the French New Wave.

Through the 50s to 60s the French New Wave brought with it an explosive fountain of art and inspiration that became not merely a pioneering trend in French cinematic culture, but a major source of influence that continues to manifest itself in class and on set around the world. French New Wave classics such as Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless” or Francois Truffaut’s “Jules et Jim” are either central additions to a cinema studies curriculum if not the curriculum itself, and for good reason. They were among other films technically, structurally and thematically game-changing in their respective historical contexts. But while the French New Wave might reasonably have had its fair share of fans as well as critics at the time and to this day, as Martin Scorsese put it: “The New Wave has influenced all filmmakers who have worked since, whether they saw the films or not. It submerged cinema like a tidal wave.”

In honor of that great era, we have put together a list of VOD links to French New Wave films referenced in Richard Neupert’s comprehensive book “A History of the French New Wave Cinema” along with some historical context from the book. (You can check out Neupert’s book on Amazon here.)

Check out the list below:

“Shoot the Piano Player” – Francois Truffaut: 

A well known tribute to the American crime drama of the mid-20th century, “Shoot the Piano Player” was blatantly impacted by Truffaut’s appetite for American cinema. As Neupert remarks in his book, “With ‘Shoot the Piano Player’, Truffaut returned to an adaptation but added many personal touches and reworked its style. Truffaut selected the David Goodis novel, ‘Down There’, which had been published in France under the title ‘Tirez sur le pianiste.’ The idea of shooting an American-style, B-series thriller appealed to Truffaut: ‘When we talk about the attraction that hard-boiled detective novels have for French people we have to remember that it is not only the American material in which we find a certain poetry, but, because this material has been transformed by the translation, we get an almost perverse pleasure out of it.'”

Stream Link: Hulu Plus


“Jules and Jim” – Francois Truffaut: 

One of the better known historical examples of a film that, despite being conceptualized with the intention of producing a commercial hit was a true personal triumph for the director, “Jules et Jim” is a French New Wave classic never overlooked by film historians. Neupart had this to say, among other things, about the melancholic love triangle film:”From the beginning stages of preproduction, ‘Jules and Jim’ was a transitional film for Truffaut, who wanted to maintain a personal style and yet, now more than ever, was determined to make another critical and commercial success.”

Stream Link: Hulu Plus

“Bob le Flambeur” – Jean-Pierre Melville:

A staple film of any discussion of the French New Wave, the poetically dim and jazzy “Bob le Flambeur” may not be as understated in its stylistic and technical significance as other works of Melville’s and the French New Wave more largely. As Neupert notes: “‘Bob le Flambeur’ proves a terrific precursor to many of the later New Wave films: it synthesizes images and characters from Poetic Realism and American films noir, with a raw, low-budget style that mixes documentary style with almost parodic artifice, all set to a jazzy contemporary score.”

Stream Link: Hulu Plus

“Breathless” – Jean-Luc Godard: 

Love it or hate it, and indeed both sides are well-represented within and outside of Godard’s lasting fan base, this game-changing contribution to the French New Wave is as Neupert describes it, a landmark. Despite what people might think of it, Neupert points out that, “‘Breathless’ was hailed as a landmark film right from the start, and even though a summary of its story line sounds rather generic, or at least a bit like a tale by Melville, its overall style and attitude made it amazing.”

Stream Link: Hulu Plus

“Le Bonheur” – Agnes Varda:

Agnes Varda, who colored the French New Wave canvas with the poetically stunning “Cleo from 5 to 7,” (one of Roger Ebert’s personal favorites) unveiled her first push towards modern filmmaking with her 1965 “Le Bonheur.” “Le Bonheur,” as Neupert puts it “delivers a surprisingly interesting narrative, full of ambivalence and ambiguity, all built on very rigorous and modern formal structures. Part of the critical confusion may owe a debt to (Agnes) Varda’s comments and interviews upon the film’s release. She often defended Francois, and reinforced the themes of happiness.”

Stream Link: Hulu Plus

“Le Beau Serge” – Claude Chabrol:

Though Neupert refrains from discussing too thoroughly “Le Beau Serge,” Chabrol’s creative trials and tribulations are well documented both in the context of his own artistry and the commercial and critical success or lackthereof bestowed on his movies. Neupert briefly comments on “Le Beau Serge” in his book: “Such good-natured clowning and the Hitchcock-style appearance of the director in his own film created a casual, familial, and joking tone in “Le Beau Serge”, but these practices also violated contemporary industry standards.”

Stream Link: Hulu

“The Girl at the Monceau Bakery” – Eric Rohmer: 

“The Girl at the Monceau Bakery” was a mere early film career short that was not released theatrically and yet made inspiring strides into a stylistic and thematic self-realization that could very well have made the eternally productive Eric Rohmer that helped define the French New Wave. Taking notice of this Neupert comments that, “With ‘The Girl at the Monceau Bakery,’ Rohmer established many of the traits that would define his stories and style throughout his career.”

Stream Link: Hulu Plus

“Suzanne’s Career” – Eric Rohmer:

“Suzanne’s Career” is narratively distinct from its predecessor, “The Girl at the Monceau Bakery,” but nonetheless sustains Rohmer’s evolving storytelling and style in a way that is undeniable when watching the two films, which Neupert compares in the following: “The second, longer Moral Tale, ‘Suzanne’s Career,’ lacks some of the charm and subtle humor of ‘The Girl at the Monceau Career’ but continues many of its strategies as well as the theme of searching for truth and beauty. In particular, this film again presents a rather timid young student as the central male, here Bertrand, an eighteen-year-old pharmacy student living near the Sorbonne, who introduces the film in voice-over and sets up the locale. ‘Suzanne’s Career’ revolves around the space of bourgeois Parisian students.”

Stream Link: Hulu Plus

“And God Created Woman” – Roger Vadim: 

A famous cinematic gamble that rippled through barrier, Roger Vadim’s “And God Created Woman” was a triple threat critical success that put him, his film and his actress Brigittte Bardot on the map of French New Wave and global success. Neupert notes in relation to this cascade of unlikely success that “Levy had produced only one film, four years before “And God Created Woman.” When he and Vadim met, Vadim proposed a love story starring Brigitte Bardot, in color and wide-screen. Once won over, Levy set to work to locate additional partners and sign an advance distribution contract. As Vadim recalls, “In 1955 Raoul was a hard-up young producer and I was a novice writer. Our first project brought shrugs of disbelief from film people, who advised us to buy a lottery ticket instead.”

Stream Link: Hulu Plus

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