Our Staff Picks column takes you back to a time when video stores reigned supreme and the "Staff Picks" section was the place to find out what films were worthy of one's time. Of course, our version of Staff Picks has a decidedly skintillating angle, as we suss out which films from a particular subgenre are the best to find great nudity. This week let's cover one of the most exciting genres of film: French New Wave.
What exactly IS French New Wave? Good question. Like pornography, I know it when I see it. I'm joking, but it does have a distinctive style that includes jump cuts and playing with narrative. You might remember learning about it from the 2017 film Godard Mon Amour.
The films' style was new and fresh. It was very experimental and low budget while using less light, long takes, and playful editing that had not yet been seen before. This remains the most influential aspect of French New Wave filmmaking. The movement rebels against traditional filmmaking, especially narrative, and the money that studio films had.
The French New Wave was a reaction to post-World War II Europe which is why so many of the films (especially Godard's) have social and political commentary. Most of these directors grew up during the war in Paris, so their films reflected the dichotomy between Parisian beauty and culture as well as the difficulties and transformations that post-war life brought Europe.
Francois Truffaut, the father of this movement, once said that New Wave is not a school or a movement. It is a "quality". How French is that?
Famous New Wave films include Breathless, Jules and Jim, Cleo from 5 to 7 to name a few. None of those films included nudity - but Breathless starred American actress Jean Seberg who would later go nude - but the ones I'm about to recommend do give us some skin. Check out our Staff Picks for French New Wave here:
Jean-Luc Godard was the king of this genre and his films tend to be fun, funny, and colorful - except for this one. Contempt is a little more on the serious side. A screenwriter is married to a gorgeous woman played by Brigitte Bardot, the one and only.
The screenwriter is trying to work with Fritz Lang (the REAL Fritz Lang) on a new film. Their relationship gets strained once his wife spends more and more time with the film-within-a-film's producer. The movie explores the relationships between art, business, and personal lives. The film STARTS with Brigitte Bardot's beautiful butt.
My Life to Live does not have explicit nudity at all, but I wanted to include it because it stars Anna Karina who was Godard's star. She became famous in several Godard classics like Pierrot le Fou and A Woman is a Woman.
This is an episodic film that shows 12 different scenes in the life of one sexy Parisian woman as she delves into sex work. It is her life to live indeed! This film is great at showcasing Anna Karina's star quality as she carries this sexy and cool film on its back through the streets of early 60s Paris.
The one and only Francois Truffaut followed up his critically acclaimed film 400 Blows with a sexier little picture. His second feature film is all about betrayal. He asks the question: can you really recover a relationship once you are betrayed? A concert pianist's wife is unfaithful to him which sends him down a spiral of bitterness and insecurity.
Michele Mercier plays the beautiful Clarisse and she has hot puffy nipples. It's no wonder she's an adulteress. She's got it, so she wants to flaunt it.
Eric Rohmer directed this film about a Catholic man who thinks that he has met the woman he wants to settle down with...but then he has a passionate affair with another woman before the wedding. How French!
His experience with a sexy divorcee named Maud, a loud and hilarious woman, challenges how he feels about love, marriage, and the idea of the perfect woman. The perfect woman is clear: it's Maud played by Francois Fabian. It's not hard to see why a man would be tempted by this free-spirited sexpot.
Agnes Varda directed this film which is a personal favorite of mine. This colorful French New Wave movie takes a look at love by following a carpenter who is married with kids to his wife Claire Drouot. He loves her, but then he also falls in love with Marie-France Boyer. He doesn't want to hurt his wife, but he definitely wants to explore a relationship with Marie-France. Well, who wouldn't?
His affair actually strengthens his love for his wife. The more he loves his mistress, the more he loves his wife. Everything does go downhill when he tells his wife about his mistress, but for a minute this movie shows how blissfully in love one guy can be with two people.
That's a really groundbreaking idea for the early 60s as the film briefly explores polyamory. Our leading man is polyamorous, loving both women fiercely...but he's also cheating on his wife. No matter how you want to live your life, honestly is the best policy, folks!
Jacquie Rivette directed this 1974 comedy about two women named Celine and Julie who live totally parallel lives. We watch these women go about their days, but their lives are turned upside down when they realize that the other one exists. It's a little bit trippy and this New Wave film is a fun dip into the more fantastical.
There were "New Wave" film movements all over the world - French, Czech, Japanese, Australian, American - and they are all reacting to different things in mainstream film, but the French New Wave remains the most famous and influential. Now you know why!