Image credit: 'Vivre Sa Vie' (Panthéon)

The French New Wave is perhaps the greatest advocation for the important of film criticism, giving the film industry a fine example of how critical analysis directly leads to the progression of the industry as a whole; after all, the entire movement was founded by critics.

In 1948, Alexandre Astruc published The Birth of New Avante-Garde: The Camera-Stylo, a manifesto outlining the power of cinema as an artistic tool. He argued that cinema could rival the creative possibilities of literature and traditional artwork, and therefore showed disdain towards the relatively new medium’s commercialisation. These values were passionately shared by the critics of Cahiers du cinema; Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette, Claude Chabrol and Éric Rohmer. Collectively, the group continued to explore Astruc’s principles and develop their own vision, which would become known as auteur theory (La politique des auteurs).

Auteur theory puts an emphasis on the creative direction of a creator, mirroring the way we traditionally value the vision of a singular poet or painter; the director is an artist, and as the film’s ‘author’, their unique vision is key to the film’s artistic value.

"The film of tomorrow appears to me as even more personal than an individual and autobiographical novel, like a confession, or a diary." – Francois Truffaut

Due to this principle, directors such as Jean Renoir, Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock were seen as hugely important examples of why auteurship is artistically superior to commercial adaptations and other titles that simply pander to box office expectations. However, the Cahiers writers went one step further than to simply praise established auteurs. Instead, they set out to utilise auteur theory with films of their own.

In 1959, Francois Truffaut released The 400 Blows, and Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless would follow less than a year later. Both titles received unexpected international success and were praised for their innovate filmmaking techniques. Among others, these titles gave the French New Wave a worldwide appeal, allowing the movement to thrive throughout the ‘60s. Since then, new wave cinema has been a constant inspiration to young filmmakers worldwide. (Source)