By Adam Thomas
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 355

Two in the Wave

This article is over 11 years, 6 months old
Director: Emmanuel Laurent, Release date: 11 February
Issue 355

Two in the Wave is a documentary about the tumultuous relationship between Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut, the two pillars of the New Wave movement of the 1960s in French cinema. It is both a celebration of the radical movement that challenged the film industry, changing the way we look at films and how they are made, and a look at the relationship between Truffaut and Godard, their filmmaking partnerships, their support for each other and their vicious split following May 1968.

Director Emmanuel Laurent worked closely with Antoine de Baecque, the scriptwriter and narrator. Baecque is a biographer of both Truffaut and Godard, granting Laurent access to some of the rich material that makes up this superbly researched film.

Captured through the meticulous and beautifully handled direction by Laurent, we are taken on a journey through an epochal cinematic and social moment in history. Truffaut and Godard, even beyond their films, are representative of the huge political divide in France which followed 1968.

The latter part of Laurent’s documentary tells the story of how the two directors protested against the sacking of the head of the Cinémathèque Française film archives, Henri Langlois, three months prior to the May 1968 demos. We are shown footage of directors from the New Wave movement – figures such as Éric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol and Jacques Rivette – holding demonstrations at a cinema. Months later they offered their solidarity and support to the students and strikers.

The documentary includes rare footage of the two directors interrupting the Cannes film festival, soon after the May 1968 riots, calling for its cancellation, seeing it as absurd to continue against the backdrop of the wave of occupations. They both call for the solidarity of cinema with students and workers in France. From here the paths of the two directors diverge greatly, with Godard radicalised and militant, and Truffaut continuing his original cinematic path, but each viciously critical of the other’s choices.

Two in the Wave is a hugely inspiring and informative documentary. We see how a key moment in French post-war culture sought to capture the hopes, ambitions and frustrations of a generation.

We are reminded that the challenge of great cinema, in Laurent’s own words, is “to fight the fight over and over again, every generation, and the battle is never won”.

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