There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
It’s almost farcical that a movie exploring the origins of the anti-establishment ethos of the French New Wave is presented in such a rigid, academic way. But while Emmanuel Laurent’s approach restrains this history by depending strictly on archival interviews, there are a few gems of cinematic lore to be found in this tale of the friendship and collaboration between François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. The titular two are well-known: Truffaut, the working-class Parisian who drifted in and out of the French penal system, and Godard, the son of wealthy industrialists who grew up on Swiss lake shores admiring American cars, who both after becoming enchanted by the movies were brought into the Cahiers du Cinema fold. Covered at length are their frustrations with France’s post-war studio system leading to their breakouts in The 400 Blows and Breathless, as are their collaborations through 1968, when the New Wave enjoined itself to that year’s student protests, from which Godard has never really returned. One fascinating bit of history here concerns Jean-Pierre Leaud. The actor, despite working an equal amount for both directors, is forever known as Truffaut’s alter-ego Antoine Doinel. The custody fight over Leaud in the wake of 1968 could merit its own feature. Imagine if Steven Spielberg and George Lucas went to war over Harrison Ford. (Interviews with the teenaged Leaud after the release of The 400 Blows bracket Two in the Wave.) Still, a few contemporary interviews with Leaud, Anna Karina, or Jean-Paul Belmondo could have helped. Certainly more than wordless scenes of a young woman flipping through old movie posters and photos.