Exhibitions, Report

Breathless cool: the enduring influence of the Nouvelle Vague

All images © Raymond Cauchetier, courtesy James Hyman Gallery, London

Raymond Cauchetier's behind the scenes photographs of Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless in 1959, on show now at James Hyman gallery, attest to a new wave in French cinema that still defines freshness and innovation today.

The Nouvelle Vague began, more or less, with Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (1960), and it came in a rush.

Upstart and “arsehole” Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) is a man in motion. On the run and racing off in a stolen car before his female accomplice has time to get in with him, he speeds down the motorway, cursing anyone who dares slow his breakneck pace.

Michel embodies a fugitive brand of modernity, too fast and fleeting to pin down, so even Godard’s innovative editing is jumpy and restless – and yet he will come crashing to a halt in Paris, while he waits on his American lover Patricia (Jean Seberg) to decide whether she will move on with him to Rome.

Patricia wants to stay and to finish her studies – and yet far from representing the stasis of the past, she is in fact younger than Michel, sports a thoroughly modern hairstyle, and wants her own independence, rather than to play a pre-written rôle in Michel’s story.

Raymond Cauchetier’s contact sheet from the set of François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim

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