The French New Wave of the 1950s and ’60s radically transformed the language of cinema. While its leading figures are widely recognized—over the years, Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, Claude Chabrol, Agnès Varda, Alain Resnais, Jacques Demy, and Chris Marker have all had retrospectives at MoMA and beyond—there were many other New Wave filmmakers whose work has remained largely unsung.
This major retrospective of more than 40 features and shorts allows the discovery of the most important among them, drawing upon the dictionary of 162 new filmmakers that appeared in the December 1962 issue of Cahiers du cinéma. Included among these is Alain Cavalier’s rarely screened L’insoumis, starring Alain Delon, as well as other films relating to the Algerian War, including James Blue’s The Olive Trees of Justice (1961) and Jacques Panijel’s banned film October in Paris (1962). The specter of French colonialism is manifested, as well, in Jacques Melo Kane, Mamadou Sarr, and Paulin Soumanou Vieyra’s groundbreaking Afrique sur Seine (1955) and in the ethnographic films of Jean Rouch, including Moi, un Noir (1958). And while the French New Wave was doubtless dominated by men—this exhibition does not neglect names like Alexandre Astruc, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, Georges Franju, Jacques Rozier, and Edouard Molinaro—there were, nonetheless, a select few women, including Paula Delsol, who made deeply personal work in the shadow of the pioneering and towering figure of Agnès Varda.
Organized by independent curator Jean-Michel Frodon, Joshua Siegel, Curator, and Olivia Priedite, Senior Program Assistant, Department of Film.