Two in the Wave (a J!-ENT DVD Review)
March 2, 2011 by Dennis Amith
One of the founders of the French New Wave, the iconic filmmakers Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard are featured in this wonderful documentary showcasing their upbringing, their career, their friendship and the demise of that friendship. This film is highly recommended to anyone who is a fan of these filmmakers, their work and La Nouvelle Vague.
© 2010 Wide Management, Kino Lorber Inc.. All Rights Reserved.
DVD TITLE: Two in the Wave
DOCUMENTARY DATE: 2010
DURATION: 92 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: 1:85:1 and 1:33, 16:9, Region 0,Color and B/W, French with English subtitles
COMPANY: Lorber Films
RELEASE DATE: February 22, 2011
Directed by Emmanuel Laurent
Written and Narrated by Antoine de Baecque
Produced by Emmanuel Laurent
Cinematography by Etienne de Gramont, Nick de Pencier
Edited by Marie-France Cuenot
Featuring archive footage of
An in-depth analysis of the relationship between New Wave pioneers François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, as seen through rare archival footage, interviews, and film excerpts — written and narrated by former Cahiers du Cinéma editor Antoine de Baecque and directed by Emmanuel Laurent.
La Nouvelle Vague, known to many as the French New Wave, a term in which a group of filmmakers from the 1950’s and 1960’s who were influenced by classic Hollywood cinema, Italian Neorealism and a few who were film critics for the publication “Cashiers du cinema” would informally organize a movement in France. The French New Wave was a rejection of classical cinema invigorated by the iconoclasm of youth and European art cinema and while there were a group of people known for this movement, two people are known for changing the landscape of cinema, doing what they want, their way, their style.
Francois Truffaut with “The 400 Blows” and Jean-Luc Godard with “Breathless”. Two very good friends who came from different backgrounds but each passionate about cinema and together they shared in common of using young actor at the time, Jean-Pierre Leaud.
Francois Truffaut is one of the founding members of the French New Wave and influential as a filmmaker, feared as a film critic. An icon of the French film industry, Truffaut feared no one. As a young child, Truffaut lived with various nannies and his grandmother who taught him about books and music. After his grandmother’s death, he lived with is parents for the first time but unfortunately, wasn’t happy that he stayed outside of the house and became friends with Robert Lachenay, who inspired the character Rene Bigey of “The 400 Blows” (which Jean-Pierre Leaud plays in the film). Unsatisfied with his home life, since watching his first film “Paradis Perdu” in 1939, his escape from home was cinema.
Truffaut was a truant, would sneak into theaters, expelled from school and at the age 14, he began self-teaching himself by reading three books a week and watching three movies a day. Truffaut would create the “Film Addict’s Club” and because of that, his stepfather who found out about his runaway stepson had him arranged for arrest and imprisonment. But watching over him was film critic Andre Bazin who met Truffaut at the club, was head of another film society and became a friend of Truffaut was instrumental in his campaign in getting Truffaut out of imprisonment and into his personal care.
Eventually Truffaut was imprisoned for military desertion and Bazin impersonated himself as his father and was virtually adopted by Bazin would take care of him. This life that Truffaut and his friend lived, would serve as an inspiration for “The 400 Blows”.
Jean-Luc Godard lived a different life from Truffaut. His father was a physician, he came from a protestant family of Franco-Swiss descent and his mother was the great-granddaughter of theologian Adolphe Monod (and other well-known people of the Monod family). Godard went to school in Switzerland and attended the University of Paris and that is where he became involved with a group of young filmmakers and film theorists. This is where Godard met Andre Bazin, the man that both he and Truffaut believed was most responsible for the French New Wave.
Bazin believed that “Realism is the essence of Cinema” and these two men would seek out to achieve cinematic realism through aesthetic and contextual media. Both Truffaut and Godard would go against traditional filmmaking by favoring long shots, Godard was known for fastcutting, jump cuts and intriguing editing. While Truffaut showed realism, Godard would embrace contradiction.
But as these two men became more popular and while Truffaut followed his passion for cinema by interviewing Alfred Hitchock and other filmmakers, while Godard would do something similar, during the ’60s, Godard’s perspective towards the world changed and became a radical, political director.
These two friends would eventually go into different paths but both would share in common their work with Jean-Pierre Leaud, a young actor who worked with Godard but his career was started by Truffaut and literally became a muse for Truffaut and a father-figure and because of that, it led to the falling out by both men.
As Godard always counted on Truffaut in financial production at times, Godard also became very critical to the point where he would badmouth his friend and when it came to asking money from Jean-Pierre Leaud, that was the final straw for Truffaut who unloaded on Godard and ended their friendship.
“Two in the Wave” is a documentary that focuses on the two men, their youth, their friendship, their work and the end of their friendship. Written and narrated by former Cahiers du Cinema editor Antoine de Baecque, this film produced and directed by Emmanuel Laurent features a documentary that is meticulously researched and covers the most vibrant and turbulent period of cinema history.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Two in the Wave” is presented in 16:9, 1:85 and 1:33, color and B&W. The footage is primarily of clips from movies directed by Truffaut and Godard but also features archived news footage and interviews of the two men. There are modern footage may it be a woman reading older copies of Cahiers du Cinema publications or visiting areas that Truffaut and Godard would visit but the footage is a mix-match of archival footage in color and black & white. So, picture quality is varied but for the most part, picture quality is good and watchable.
Audio is presented in French with English subtitles. Narration by Antonine de Baecque is clear and understandable. Even the archived footage is clear and understandable. No one should have any problems with the audio quality from the archived footage.
“Two in the Wave” comes with no special features.
When it comes to the works of Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, for me, their oeuvre are fascinating and intriguing. I know with fellow cineaste, many tend to stay with the paradigm of late ’50s and ’60s when it comes to their films but for me, I watch everything and to understand their mindset.
I read various books on both men, including their film critique books in order to gain some insight of what the men are thinking and how they viewed cinema or a filmmaker because to me, not only have these men help found Nouvelle Vague, these men embodied cinema, they thrived on cinema and they speak their mind about cinema quite bluntly.
But as intrigued as I am towards their career, I am also intrigued about their friendship and also what ended it. And to gain such knowledge, it took years of reading various books and publications to gain that insight. But fortunately, now people can get a good idea of the upbringing, the career and the friendship of Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard with “Two in the Wave”.
For me, this documentary was well-researched as we see a juxtaposition of both men and their lives. The footage selected and used are very well done but I do feel that the documentary didn’t try to polemicize their relationship. And with Godard and Leaud still around, I do believe that both Emanuel Laurent and Antoine de Baecque wanted to cover both men without any bias and to keep the documentary balance by showcasing the different upbringing of both men, focusing on their career and of course, what led to their breakup.
But if you have read a lot into their break up, there is more to the story. I do believe that the main reason why the two ended their relationship was money and possibly jealousy.
As for Truffaut and Godard, once the two began receiving funding for their films, Truffaut I felt stayed true to his style (but also received Western support financially for his films) while Godard began going through major political changes to the point he was alienating everyone that was once close to him. To put it plainly, he became a political propagandist.
The two were like Lennon/McCartney but the fact is that Truffaut was consistent, Godard was the revolutionary. Truffaut admired cinema and its auteurs, Godard had contempt towards cinema towards himself and his fellow filmmakers.
And of course 1973, was the year the two had their most public split. We know from his films that 1968 and on…Godard was not the same type of director that people knew via the French New Wave. He lost support from critics and even several of his former friends/filmmakers.
It’s one thing that he had his own Super-8 video equipment but the fact is, unlike Truffaut, Godard at the time, was not getting any money or the support like his friend. So, probably the most aggressive thing he did was to criticize Truffaut on his film “La nuit americaine” (Day for the Night).
Godard sent Truffaut a letter and called him a “liar” for leaving things out of his film and to make amends, Truffaut should send him money to make a film in response. And this is where Leaud comes in. It’s important to note that he even sent a letter to Jean-Pierre Leaud, the film’s star and an actor he had worked with. But also remember, like Bazin gave Truffaut a chance with cinema, it is Truffaut who saw himself in Leaud and gave him a chance to be an actor and embrace cinema.
And because Godard did this, I believe it was the ultimate slap in the face for Truffaut. What Godard received was a 20-page letter of 15 years of frustrations that Truffaut had with Godard. (note: Source of information is from The New Yorke film critic Richard Brody and excerpted from his book “Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard”)
So as not to oblige you to read this disagreeable letter to the end, I begin with the essential: I will not enter your coproduction in your film.
Second, I am returning your letter to Jean-Pierre Leaud: I have read it and find it disgusting. It is because of this that I fell that the time has come to tell you, at length, that in my view you behave like shit.
What Godard wrote to Leaud was him asking for money. Truffaut felt it was disgusting that a director would ask a poor actor for financial help. Truffaut had said that if the letter to Leaud was not included, he would have helped out Godard.
In this 20-page letter, Truffaut went all out and of course, kept calling Godard “shit” to his unprofessionalism due to the director trying to seduce his female actresses, not showing up to film festivals when he promised to attend, calling Pierre Braunberger a “Dirty Jew” (interesting to note: that even his 70’s filmmaking partner Gorin, when Gorin tried to recoup the money he had made with Godard, Godard made a similar comment which ticked Gorin off).
But in the letter, Truffaut continued:
Anyone who has a different opinion from yours is a creep, even if the opinion you hold in June is not the same one you held in April. In 1973, your prestige is intact, which is to say, when you walk into an office, everyone studies your face to see if you are in a good mood.
You have never succeeded in loving anyone or in helping anyone. Other than by shoving a few banknotes at them.
Truffaut then added in the letter of all the times he went to bat for Godard, helped him financially especially in “Contempt” when Truffaut was asked to replace Godard and didn’t. Telling Godard that he was jealous of him and including a letter when Godard demanded money from him for the production of “Two or Three Things”.
And ended with:
In any case, we no longer agree about anything.
Needless to Godard continued his tirade towards Truffaut and even after Truffaut’s death, there were no signs of Godard letting up.
I am amazed that people who lack ideas for new films (including some old friends like Truffaut, Rivette, who don’t have any more ideas than the guys whom they denounced twenty years ago), continue to adhere to the one and self-same system of filmmaking, which is easy to describe: a sum of so many million, multiplied by so many weeks, multiplied by a certain number of people.
In 1977, he did a talk with students and reviewed his career and said that he was relieved that his films after “Breathless” were financial failures. In his mind, he felt it kept him from becoming what he thought Truffaut had become: someone who “Talks to nobody, except to Polanski”. Godard felt that Polanski and Altman films “pretend to be intellectual when it’s pure merchandise”. He felt their style was dishonest. He felt that Truffaut was part of that group.
Needless to say, I do feel that in 1973, that letter stung Godard to his core. No one would dare tell him how they felt about him in such a manner, nor use the past as evidence to show how Godard was to them and he used his friendship. I think it was stinging to him because it was Truffaut. The man who has helped him so much with “Breathless” and earlier in his career.
Although both men tend to be compared, I have always seen Truffau and Godard, both men like apples and oranges when it comes to their approach to filmmaking. Truffaut is right that how Godard was something one month, and how he was different the other. Godard is a complex individual, a man of contradictions, a man that one shouldn’t try to figure out because you won’t be able to. And I think that’s why we love his films, he could care less of what people think but he just does them for his love of cinema, his way and his style.
Truffaut did films, his way and his style but he was not contradictory. He went against traditional cinema his way and his style and I do believe that is the efficacy of the juxtaposition of both filmmakers in “Two in the Wave”. I do believe that LAurent and de Baecque tried to keep things as balanced as they could and that is probably a good thing because the more you research, you start to make decisions of who is right and who is wrong. This documentary wants you to enjoy both filmmakers for what they accomplished in their careers and during the friendship without getting into the nitty gritty of the demise of their friendship.
Godard inspired filmmakers with his attitude and doing things his way even if it angered his producers. While Truffaut, I admire him as a filmmaker and also his appreciation to the artistic work of filmmakers. But I think the way how people have used the Lennon/McCartney comparison works for Truffaut and Godard. These two created films that were loved by many, films that were even despised by critics at times and both were rebellious as well. But both veered into opposite paths and there was no way this relationship could ever be repaired.
As for the DVD, the DVD features the film and no special features. It would have been great to have some interviews with both director Emmanuel Laurent and writer/narrator Antoine de Baecque but if anything, for the film itself, it’s still one documentary that I do feel anyone interested in the French New Wave should watch.
“Two in the Wave” is a fascinating documentary for those who are fans of Truffaut and Godard and is highly recommended!
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