Before this year ends, we add our voice to the 50th-anniversary celebration of the French Nouvelle Vague, arguably the most stylish movement in all of cinema history. We won’t be so presumptuous as to say this movement is the greatest because there is still its dynamic precursor, Italian Neorealism. But the French New Wave is as revolutionary to the development of cinema as Griffith and Eisenstein. (Although, to be sure, as writers on Philippine cinema have pointed out, filmmaking in this country was already way ahead in carrying out the New Wave school of filmmaking: the improvised sets, the improvised shooting, the storytelling and dialogue handed out on a per-need basis, and the disregard of continuity and other standards of conventional excellence.)
This year, the distinguished film magazine Sight & Sound has put out a special issue paying tribute to the movement; so, too, has Cahiers du Cinema, the magazine where Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut and other New Wave filmmakers got their start as film critics. Instead of coming out with the usual retrospective chronicle, we present here some poetic musings, so to speak, on the movement: Dodo Dayao’s “You Don’t Love Met Yet,” inspired by Danish actress Anna Karina (Godard’s first wife and one of the New Wave’s iconic stars); and Ricky Torre’s “From the Diary of Chow Mo-wan,” an imaginary episode between bourgeoise young wife Christine Doinel, one of Truffaut’s evocative film characters, and the lovelorn writer Chow Mo-wan of In the Mood for Love and 2046, by Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai, a prominent devotee of the New Wave.
ANNA Karina, all she had to do was run through the Louvre to take my breath away, steal my heart. She didn’t have to dance, but when she did, it was too much and my heart sort of broke a little. She broke Godard’s heart, too. That’s what exes do. And sometimes muses.
Anna K’s a fantasy of mine. Not that sort, but that’ll do, too—the woman is digable, I’m not blind. I do prefer Yoko, in principle, for standing by her man, never leaving. I’d rather have a Yoko, all told. I heart the long haul. Jean-Luc, he may have had Jean Seberg in À bout de souffle, Brigitte Bardot in Le mépris, Chantal Goya in Masculin féminin, but Anna K had this perilous radiance none of them had and, with or without knowing the back story, you get this sense of a lot more at stake, which is how it should be with muses. And Anna K was the proper, righteous, consummate muse. Jean-Luc never stood a chance.
True story taken from Garrison Keillor: “Robert Louis Stevenson was passing by the window of a house one night in France when he looked inside and fell instantly in love with a woman he saw eating dinner with a group of her friends. Stevenson stared at her for what seemed like hours, and then opened the window and leapt inside. The guests were shocked, but Stevenson just bowed and introduced himself. The woman was an American named Fanny Osborne. They fell in love and got married a few years later.”
I saw Vivre sa vie some time back. The resident awe for Anna K’s face, parts of it, if not most of it, like some porno of that visage. Everything begins with a face you can’t escape. Even before the first word is spoken. Even before the first transfer of energies. Even before the parts match. The longing to connect. The urge to pursue. The thundering desire for love. The face reduces you to tongue-tied, sniveling, social deficiency. The face makes you palpitate like a caffeine drip. I have a wobbly theory that none of us are ever sucked in by a fat chance, none of us crush for longshots. There’s no empirical evidence—how can there be? But it hasn’t failed me yet so maybe I’m on to something. Love at first sight is not some wayward phenomenon, it’s the standard. I don’t know you. But I want you. All the more for that. Right.
She was the best kept secret borne from fleeting encounters, remarkable for how the imprint got stickier and stickier with each run-in.
Is that you, my Anna K? Will you run through the Louvre with me? Could you be loved?
Bravado is an also-ran as I think about Anna K and my own first sighting and how some of them still burn holes in my eyes still and I listen to Roky Erickson’s “You Don’t Love Me Yet” and Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Possess Your Heart,” one after the other, which is sort of trite but so is trying to imbibe the courage of its convictions—the cock of its bull as it were—but I don’t care and I do so anyway.
Jean-Luc said once that all a movie needs to sell tickets is a girl and a gun—a theory that somehow applies to everything.
A girl and a gun, yeah. Shooting at the walls of heartache. Bang bang.
The author writes about cinema here. Next, "From the Diary of Chow Mo-Wan" by Ricky Torre.