New Wave, New Hollywood, New Morality | Catholic National Register

It could be argued that an obscure French publication not only changed the way films would be made, but also played a role in shaping American culture and social attitudes – and by extension the world we live in today. hui.

In April 1951, a group of impoverished French moviegoers, unable to raise capital to make films, were forced to write about cinema instead. To this end, they started a newspaper called Cinema Notebooks (“Cahiers sur le cinéma”).

In the decade since the publication’s launch, the tastes of future directors Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard and Claude chabrol denounce, debate and disagree with the existing cinematic canon. Perhaps more importantly, they would also decide what new directions the cinema should take in terms of style and substance. In and through the cinema, Cinema Notebooks would propose a new way of seeing reality, influenced by philosophical schools as different as personalism and Marxism.

In the late 1950s, many young writers from Cinema Notebooks had started making films. By the late 1950s, many of these new filmmakers were winning awards. Their so-called “arthouse” films initially attracted a small audience, but that was not the point. What these new directors had managed to do was strike a chord with a new, young and educated audience. What had been captured on screen was something of the mind then abroad: one that refused to accept traditional mores as fixed and at the same time offered new alternative ways of living.

In contrast, in the 1960s, Hollywood was in sharp decline. During the previous decade, his once stable, but effective studio system had started to crumble. But perhaps more alarming for Hollywood executives, television had arrived across the United States and elsewhere, breaking the cinema’s monopoly on visual entertainment for the masses.

Hollywood studios of the 1950s and early 1960s attempted to compete with this new technology by becoming “bigger” (Cinemascope), “brighter” (Technicolor) and more epic than television. However, what these film producers failed to take into account was that screen size did not replace the art of storytelling – this show alone was never enough. As a result, in the early 1960s, many films were indeed bigger and brighter, but also bombastic.

The French New Wave began with filmmakers who first had to become journalists. What would spawn a very different Hollywood started with two East Coast journalists who wanted to write screenplays.

Fittingly, David Newman and Robert Benton met while working in the early 1960s at Squire at a time when this magazine would be the pioneer of what we would call the new journalism. While there, Benton and Newman began working on a screenplay about Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, the leaders of a Depression-era robber gang. Remarkably, the first draft of the script was passed on to one of the emerging elites of French cinema, Godard. Initially, he agreed to direct the film. Eventually, however, the French abandoned him. In doing so, the film fell into the hands of a beginner Hollywood actor, not quite then a big name, Warren Beatty, who commissioned Arthur Penn to direct his film.

The first drafts of Bonnie and Clyde (1967) were strongly influenced by the French New Wave in general and by one film in particular: Truffaut’s Jules and Jim (1961). It is therefore not surprising that the first draft of Bonnie and Clyde was as explicit in its violence and sexual content as European films had become. Too much even for new star and producer Beatty, who toned down some elements. Unusually for the time, Beatty wanted to not only star in the film but also produce it.

In 1966, Bonnie and Clyde was in production on-site in Texas. The following year, on August 14, it was released to the American public. From the start, Bonnie and Clyde was to divide movie critics. This difference of opinion was not limited to whether the film was good. By those who praised the film, those who decried it were seen as “reactionary,” accused of failing to perceive the subtle criticisms of contemporary society that it contained.

The film’s use of excessive violence, never before seen by mainstream Hollywood audiences, was excused by its admirers as being “realistic,” the sexual explicitation similarly admired. Critics who questioned the folk hero status bestowed on murderous bank robbers were told they didn’t get it. Soon it became clear that Bonnie and Clyde and its reception was more than just artistic differences.

At the same time, another era was coming to an end. The real “victim” of Bonnie and ClydeThe seemingly endless stream of bullets on screen was Hollywood production code. Self-regulation has existed in Hollywood since the 1920s. Under pressure from the Catholic Church, among others, this regulation was codified in the 1930s. A proscriptive list of what could and could not be formed on screen followed for films wishing for the seal of approval of what would come to be known as the Production Code.

For decades, without the approval of the Production Code, large-scale distribution was next to impossible for Hollywood film producers. However, by the 1960s the code, which had been under pressure throughout the 1950s, was starting to look redundant. In the 1960s, more explicit European films were regularly shown in American theaters, with Hollywood studios involved in their distribution.

Considering the content of many of these films, such distribution was without any code approval. More important to studios than the code’s seal of approval, however, was the fact that many of these films turned out to be a huge box office draw. It could be argued that the code’s life support systems were turned off when, at the end of 1967, Time published a first page accompanied by images of Bonnie and Clyde proclaiming: “The New Cinema… Violence… Sex… Art. ”

Bonnie and Clyde Perhaps it is set in the Depression of the 1930s, but the attitudes and politics exhibited were those of the nascent 1960s counterculture. Tellingly, the film’s protagonists and those they enlist in progress road to helping them with their criminal enterprises are not just outside of society – they oppose the foundation of society: the rule of law and all that it stands for. In their opposition to society, this on-screen criminal gang creates an alternative society to the mainstream.

While not quite a commune, this alternative society is one where the gang decides their own morality, enjoying a creed of free life and free love, seemingly at no cost to them. themselves – their victims don’t matter. As the film’s commercial said: “They are young, they are in love … and they kill people.” On the other hand, those they murder or steal from the screen rarely speak in this film. This is also the case for the authorities who set out to capture the criminal gang. These law and order officers are portrayed as bossy, lacking in humor, warmth and humanity, which is shown to the public as residing within the gang.

Packaged this way when re-released, it was only a matter of time before Bonnie and Clyde has found its audience. It was with young people and, inevitably, with “establishment opponents”. In 1967 it was a sizeable riding, and in the future it was a riding that would become influential. Warner Bros. had been so pessimistic about the film’s box office chances that he offered its first producer Warren Beatty 40% of the gross price, instead of a tiny amount. Ultimately, the film grossed over $ 70 million, becoming the third-most popular film at the U.S. box office of 1967.

Ironically, it was in 1967 that the 39th Academy Awards would be dominated by a movie: A man for all seasons (1966). He was nominated for ten Oscars; in the end, he won six. By all accounts it has been a phenomenal journey, adding to its already existing international accolades and global business success. And yet, the subject of the film was the life of a saint: Thomas More. The fact that the film deals with matters of faith and conscience made its box office and Oscar accomplishments all the more remarkable.

A man for all seasons was based on the 1960 Robert Bolt play of the same name. The play was experimental in the staging devices used; the film version, however, was not to employ such experimentation. Instead, the source material became a well-performed, professionally-run film production that looked and sounded quite the epic history. As such, although produced in England in 1965, it could have been shot anytime during the previous 30 years. It was traditional on-screen storytelling that conformed – artistically and morally – to industry standards that had existed for decades. It was a film for the sensitivity of all audiences.

In hindsight, this film was going to be the last of its kind. Not that historical drama had ceased to be filmed, far from it, but rather that a different aesthetic would soon prevail and dominate cinema, especially in America as Hollywood entered a new era. Subsequently, in this New Hollywood, films will increasingly be seen no longer as entertainment, but as statements, not reflecting society, but changing it.

By the time of the English Reformation, St. Thomas More had died knowing that a different societal and religious order was being established. It was a new order which masked its lusts and its greed by speaking of “conscience” free from any principle or external constraint, while not being accountable to anyone. The English break with Rome and the subsequent sack of Church land and property began with high principle speeches, but actually performed with much lower motives. Therefore, More’s death marked the end of Catholic England.

Centuries later, when the holy martyr died onscreen, it was a moment that symbolically marked a killing of what films had been until then. Those who carry out this “execution” are now proclaiming the birth of a new cinematographic order: a New Hollywood. This new Hollywood, in all its subsequent forms, would produce a cultural legacy that is still with us today – and one that could be said to be more pervasive than ever on screen and in the minds of those who watch it. .

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