Dir. Emmanuel Laurent. France/Belgium. 2009

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Emmauel Laurent's insightful documentary charts the rise of French cinema's two brightest stars Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard as they gave fresh impetus to their nation's cinema in the form of the Nouvelle Vague, or the New Wave to give it it's English translation.

Starting in 1959 with the Cannes premiere of Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows), Truffaut's triumphant debut feature, the film shows how Godard responded in kind with Breathless (1960); how the two men were shaped by their cinema going youth, how their journalistic freedom at Cahiers du Cinema in Paris helped define them as filmmakers and then slowly how their friendship disintergrated without it being resolved before Truffaut's premature death in 1984.

The film uses a voiceover by Antoine de Baecque - a prolific cultural historian - who lends a sense of gravitas and appreciation to proceedings, he is helped by the use of film extracts from both Godard and Truffaut, archive interviews and perhaps most perplexingly, a young actress turning pages of vintage magazines as the voiceover tells us what she is looking at.

This is where the documentary falls short; with such a distinctive subject matter and with a brilliant conflict of interests between the urbane Truffaut and rebellious Godard taking place there were surely stories aplenty to share here.  For instance, this is the first time I realised the backstory to the triumphant 400 Blows screening was that Truffaut, being critical of the Festival in his famous magazine the year before, had been banned from Cannes so making his film premiere sweet revenge.  This type of information was not taught us at film school, it was a common belief that Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol, Rohmer all just picked up a camera and went guerilla like Godard did for Breathless.

However, looking back on these films you get the sense that Truffaut had a sense about what he was doing with 400 Blows and the way it was shot gives it that one foot in the authentic cinema, and one foot in the new wave owing to the depicition of youth - a polished rebellion in this instance.

Whilst the documentary may serve as reliant in academic circles and film classes seeking background information on such established directors, much like that actress (Isild Le Bosco) turning the pages of archives, there is a whole lot more to be learnt from reading books, especially Richard Brody's Godard biography Everything is Cinema (2008) and for Truffaut seek out the Interviews with Hitchcock (1954).

Two in the Wave is released by New Wave Films on DVD and Blu-Ray and is out now. 
Jamie Garwood

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