Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Isild Le Besco, Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Jean-Pierre Léaud
Written by: Antoine de Baecque
Directed by: Emmanuel Laurent
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 91
Date: 03/18/2013
IMDB

Two in the Wave (2011)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Coming to 'Blows'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Roxie Cinema in San Francisco is opening this documentary as part of their Jean-Pierre Léaud series. Director Emmanuel Laurent attempts to tell the story of directors François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, their friendship with each other, and their working relationship with the young actor Léaud. Both Truffaut and Godard were critics at Cahiers du Cinema. Both became filmmakers and both took the world by storm, just one year apart, with their debut films The 400 Blows and Breathless. Léaud appeared in several films by both filmmakers. But toward the end of the 1960s, Truffaut and Godard had a major falling-out over politics and filmmaking, and never spoke again. Léaud was caught in the middle.

Unfortunately, it takes a great deal of explaining and sidetracking to tell this story. You have to talk about Andre Bazin and the formation of Cahiers du Cinema. You have to talk about the auteur theory. You have to talk about the state of cinema in France at the time. You have to talk a bit about the Cannes Film Festival. You have to talk a bit about Truffaut and Godard's famous colleagues. You have to talk about the changing political climate of the time. You have to talk about Henri Langlois and the Cinematheque, and then the 1968 protests over Langlois' attempted firing, and then the canceling of the 1968 Cannes Film Festival. And more.

Then, if you're making a film about the French New Wave, you have to choose a style, and most filmmakers -- Laurent included -- would naturally choose a kind of homage to the New Wave. So Laurent includes images of a pretty blond girl (Isild Le Besco) pouring over newspaper and magazine articles and other clippings, learning about all this history, and going to the movies.

I love all this stuff, and it's really interesting to hear it all told again in a new way, and one thing that Laurent does well is that he refuses to side with either Godard or Truffaut in their feud. But unfortunately, all this background keeps the film from really focusing on the emotional relationships between the three men. They become almost like distant objects in a newsreel. I'm not exactly sure how to tell this story without all the history, unless it were done more like a play, fictitious, with actors playing the major characters. Though Two in the Wave doesn't quite get there, it still has the outline of a great story, plus lots of great clips of classic French films, and it's worth seeing.

Kino Lorber released the DVD with no extras.