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Cinématographie Moderne

Updated on March 7, 2018

What is cinematography?

The style and for in which a motion picture or Documentary is filmed is the films cinematography. "Cinematography" looks like a very complex word, however its definition is a lot simpler than the word. Cinematography is the art of motion picture. Simple, right? "The word ‘cinema’ actually comes from ‘Kinema’-toscope and is derived from the Greek word kinema-matos meaning the science of pure motion." There is lots of interesting information like this can be discovered on the Pre-cinema history website. Link below

Photo of a Magic Lantern
Photo of a Magic Lantern

Where did it start?

There has been debate on when film really began, I believe it began with the invention of the Magic lantern projector, which is that camera looking device in the picture above. The magic lantern was an unrefined almost ancient version of a slide projector. A hand painted slide with a corresponding action slide projects a moving image on the wall using the light given off by a flame. This video below shows some of the achievable images with the Magic Lantern.

Old Hollywood

In early 20th century Hollywood was a huge industry, silent films became very popular. However, the way that movies were composed was very formulaic. Everything was done in a certain order, and certain way to make sure that the movies were good. This way the final product was always great. Then there was WWII... Ironically this was one of the greatest changes to cinema.

Photograph of Leon Blum
Photograph of Leon Blum

WWII its effects on Cinema

In 1946, a year after the war the Prime Minister of France, Leon Blum traveled to the US to negotiate with the Secretary of State James Byrnes. The negotiation resulted in the clearing of France's 2 billion dollar war debt. However, in exchange France would open its market to American cultural products, the biggest one being movies.

French New Wave

Once the Hollywood film industry was appropriated in French culture it became very popular. It inspired many young french directors to start filming their own movies. Although these french directors looked up to American Hollywood films they believed the method of filming was becoming out dated. So they pretty much scraped the old ways of film etiquette, and started a new one.

"La Nou Velle Vague" (The French New Wave)
"La Nou Velle Vague" (The French New Wave)

Cahier Du Cinema

The "Cahier Du Cinema," (Notebook of Cinema) was a magazine that was was pulished in the 40s and 50s. New film critics such as André Bazin, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Rivette, Eric Rohmer, and François Truffaut were part of the editorial team and published multiple editions of a very well known film magazine. They criticized the french traditionalist filmmakers and embraced less mainstream genres of film. They were also young filmmakers known as The Young Turks. A lot of their techniques contribute to the way movies are shot today, and they are known to be the pioneers of the French New Wave.

Copies of the Cahier du Cinema
Copies of the Cahier du Cinema

Innoative Cinematography: Jump Cuts

Several new techniques were created during the French New Wave, it was almost as if these new directors understood the language of film better than most. One huge technique which innovative was the use of jump cuts. They used jump cuts in so many different ways. For matching and contrasting scenes, to make the films shorter, to get the point across a lot faster and easier. They also used it to make the film feel more self aware, to make it obvious that it is a movie using the complete acceptance of imperfection.

Innovative Cinematography: Camera Liquidity

Another technique that was used was the unconventional camera movement. Instead of filming a scene from a stationary point, these new directors would experiment with moving the camera around, low angle tracking shots, POV, panning, and quick movements. It made the shots less claustrophobic, made them feel more open, like there is a whole world on the that side of the lens. Some people argue that this was all due to the lack of funding and how they very little support, but regardless it ended up being innovation at its finest. The video below can elaborate on several more innovative techniques used by French New Wave directors such as freeze frames, breaking the fourth wall, editing, etc.

Variety in Styles

They also gave birth to a variety in cinematography styles giving the directors a pallet of techniques to express what they envision, making film even more artistic. This theory was called the Auteur (author) theory, or Camera Stylo, (Camera Pen) it thrived on the idea that the director was the the creative force behind the movie and that they could use the camera like a writer uses a pen— having their own signature visual trademark. This eventually put a stop to the tyranny of production companies and it became common for directors to have creative freedom this was perhaps one of the most important changes to the film industry.

Modern Cinematography

Thanks to the French New Wave filmmaking has evolved to much more into an art form than it was before. The amount of styles of filming today is pretty much all attributed to the experimentation of the French New Wave. It's actually kind of funny we inspire the french, and then the french inspire us back. These styles of filmmaking became very popular in Hollywood and very soon after it became Cinématographie Moderne.


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