Dominic Topp – Nouveau cinéma: from fragmentation to unity, or What Cahiers du cinéma did next…

Wednesday 9th December, 5pm – 7pm. in GLT3

Dr Dominic Topp, School of Arts, University of Kent

In the mid-1960s a new generation of critics at Cahiers du cinéma, who had taken over from the ‘young Turks’ of the 1950s, moved the journal away from the veneration of Hollywood auteurs and the exploration of mise en scène for which it is still best known. Instead, they began to write about and to actively promote what they dubbednouveau cinéma (new cinema). This term was applied to the work of a wide variety of filmmakers from many different countries, but broadly speaking it can be seen as designating a modernist film practice. Drawing on examples from films by, among others, Věra Chytilová, Agnès Varda and Jerzy Skolimowski, this paper will describe some of the features of nouveau cinéma as they were outlined by Cahiers critics such as Jean-Louis Comolli, Noël Burch and Serge Daney: discontinuity and ambiguity at the levels of both subject matter and form, a creative tension between fragmentation and unity, and a reflexivity that could be understood as self-critical, and even oppositional, in nature. It will suggest that the concept of nouveau cinéma can be understood as an interpretative schema that allowed Cahiers readers to make sense of a diverse range of challenging new films by considering their formal and stylistic practices as their true subject matter, and offered a set of viewing strategies by which formal experimentation and political engagement could be seen not as mutually exclusive but as profoundly interrelated.