French cinema has always held a reputation for producing experimental films and forging sometimes tenuous links with the world of fine art. Luis Bunuel's 1928 collaboration with Salvador Dali Un Chien Andalou is a case in point. Although the New Wave were certainly no less intellectual in their approach to film-making, they were a generation raised on the drama and excitement of Hollywood movies. They rebelled against the traditional French cinema which they felt had become staid and false; dependent on a contrived world of studio sets and screenplays adapted from novels. Instead, they concentrated on bringing a sense of realism to cinema.
Realism in Godard's A Bout de Souffle
In a sharp contrast to social realism in 1950s British films, which sought to portray real life through its use of ordinary characters and subject matter, the French New Wave made films in many different genres often without using normal narrative conventions at all. Their idea of realism was tied up with the use of real locations, improvised scripts, natural lighting and hand held cameras which enabled spontaneous shooting. It was about staying real and true to the very nature of film as a medium for expression. For example, in Godard's debut A Bout de Souffle (Breathless), there is a scene with Jean Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg walking down a street, Seberg selling copies of the New York Herald Tribune. This was filmed entirely as it happened, using a concealed camera, with...