A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (well, Manhattan), I was told by an otherwise rational budding critic that Jean-Luc Godard was the real French New Wave director–not François Truffaut.
In the words of Michael Caine’s character Peachy Carnehan in The Man Who Would Be King: “Pardon me while I fall down laughing.”
Yes, this was told to me in all seriousness, with the utmost authority. I guess if you make movies that are too enjoyable, it’s trendy to discount them in favor of more “experimental” cinema.
Frankly, I like to be entertained. And in general, Truffaut’s body of work is light-years more entertaining than Godard’s–Breathless aside.
You’re right: The critic’s point was that Godard was more of a New Wave exponent than Truffaut … not necessarily a better filmmaker (although I think that was implied). Yet I’ll have to disagree with this, too. Truffaut’s edgy cuts, intimate camera, and use of tricks ranging from irises to freeze-frames invigorated the cinema, bringing it close to an accessible, pertinent ideal. That his films are greater, in general, than Godard’s is just gravy. It’s François I think of when I think of La Nouvelle Vague, not Jean-Luc.
Do I consider Breathless a hallmark of world cinema? Of course. But I consider it a Truffaut film, anyway. Sans François, Godard’s films aren’t as good–and often veer on the irritating.
To be a “real” artist in any medium, one must excel in the field. That’s why I also prefer Alban Berg’s compositions to Arnold Schoenberg’s–despite the latter’s involvement in the development of 12-tone music. And I like Picasso’s art more than Braque’s, though they both had a hand in Cubism. The greater creator is the real one, the one whose works you’d rather absorb.
At least, that’s my reality. Is it everyone’s?
Ha. In my dreams.