FSEM 100F | The French New Wave: Cinema and Society


Film critics and historians generally agree that the French New Wave, which emerged in the late 1950s and dominated world cinema in the 1960s, constituted one of the most groundbreaking and influential movements in the history of the medium.  In this FSEM, we will examine the major directors and films of this movement, as well as the the themes and social issues that animate these works.  In addition to analyzing how these films revolutionized both film production and film form with experimental techniques and narratives, we will also see how they portray in very new ways significant political and social changes transforming France during this period, such as the changing role of women in society, inter-generational conflict, and emergence of radical leftist politics.  Through close analysis, collaborative presentations, group discussion, and individual research, we will gain a deeper understanding of how the films of the French New Wave comprise powerful social documents as well as  innovative works of personal expression.

Leonard Koos, Associate Professor of French

In addition to my specialization in nineteenth-century French literature, another theme in my academic career has been the study of film. As an undergraduate at UCLA and while studying abroad in Paris, I took a variety of courses in film analysis, history, and theory. As a graduate student at Yale University, I had the opportunity to research several topics in early film production. Finally, as an instructor at UMW, I have regularly taught introductory and advanced courses on French film as well as on world cinema. I have always been struck by the fact that in the academic world, we tend to emphasize the written word, relegating questions of visual literacy to the margins. Given that film has been a dominant narrative mode of our culture for over a century, I think that it is essential for a contemporary mind to understand how meaning is constructed through the powerful combination of images and sound. By developing our own sense of visual literacy, we can become active thinkers rather than remaining passive observers.