The New Wave in French Culture
A TINY but significant piece of cultural news from France earlier this year was the report that Jean-Paul Sartre had said of one of the latest nouvelle vague (“new wave”) films, Jean- Luc Godard’s Breathless (A Bout de Souffle-not yet released here), that it was tres beau. It is remarkable that the champion of “commitment,” the theorist who has always emphasized that moral choice is the essential human act and who has just produced another immense and closely reasoned volume on his favorite theme, should praise a film which is in effect the most complete expression of romantic nihilism we have seen for some time. I doubt whether such a film could have been made ten years ago, and I am fairly sure that, if it had, Sartre would not have spoken well of it then. Without having consciously changed his principles, he must have been affected by the shift of mood that has occurred during the last year or two in several departments of French life.
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