A Certain Tendency in French Cinema (France, 1954)
Abstract

François Truffaut loved American cinema and despised much of what French cinema had become. His “A Certain Tendency in French Cinema” became a foundational document of auteur theory and, indeed, of the French nouvelle vague; it was a scorched-earth assault on the cinéma du qualité or, more derisively, la cinéma du papa that dominated postwar French cinema. This led, in the fi rst instance, to the valorization of American auteur cinema and, soon thereafter, to a new kind of French cinema, one that was intensely devoted to the history of cinema in all its forms. If Zavattini looked for truth in the real, Truffaut looked for it in Hollywood and in the work of a few key French directors, such as Robert Bresson. Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, and Eric Rohmer all began, in strikingly different ways, to make fi lms infused with, but nevertheless undercutting, themes from Hollywood. And this sensibility emerged, in large part, from Truffaut’s manifesto. As a fi lmmaker, Truffaut would often later be criticized for the sentimentality of his fi lms—Godard at the front line of this criticism in the 1970s when Truffaut released La nuit américaine (Day for Night [France, 1973])—but in his early writings Truffaut was as brutal as Godard would ever become.


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