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The Performance of Character in Modernist and New Wave European Cinema

The Performance of Character in Modernist and New Wave European Cinema

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This essay explores the evocation and presentation of characters in modernist and new wave films. Taking Antonioni's Eclipse and Godard's A Bout de Souffle/Breathless as examples, the protagonists of these film are explored as cinematic constructs.
This essay explores the evocation and presentation of characters in modernist and new wave films. Taking Antonioni's Eclipse and Godard's A Bout de Souffle/Breathless as examples, the protagonists of these film are explored as cinematic constructs.

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Sep 01, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
School of Languages and Literature 2007/08LL2001: Modernism in European Cinema.(Dept. of English)Q(2) New Wave and modernist European films break withclassical (and particularly Hollywood) narrative and stylisticconventions. These films’ protagonists, for instance, may not beround, realistic characters, giving us the illusion of existing inthe real world; or may become rather detached observers of thereality that surrounds them. Discuss in this light at least two of the studied films, paying attention to the characters’ traits, their roles in the narratives, their point of view, questions of spectatorial identification, and performance.Student: Susannah NorrisStudent Number: 106018513Lecturer: Laura RascaroliSubmission Date: 25
th
April 2008
 
2
 
Is the cinema catalogued as a whole or a part? If you make a western, no psychology; if you make a love story, no chases or fights; if you make alight comedy, no adventures; and if you have adventures, no character analysis.- Jean-Luc Godard
1
(1964)
The films of the New Waves and Modernist
auteurs
are peopled with new types of characters; the characters of directors with a clear vision of themselves as artists of cinema. Their purpose is different - they are not intended to be naturalistic, to create asense of identification in order to engage one more fully with the story being told, butrather to create a sense of distance which prompts reflection in the viewer. In the courseof this essay, the characters of Michel and Patricia in Godard’s
 Breathless
and Vittoria inAntonioni’s
 Eclipse
will be examined with regard to their traits, roles in the narratives, point of view, performance, and spectatorial identification. In delineating the manner inwhich these films to an extent reject classical and Hollywood narrative and stylisticconvention, it is hoped to illustrate that these original characters are crucial to theexpression of new philosophies of cinema and modernity.Jean-Luc Godard, in his ‘most representative’
2
 
 Nouvelle Vague
masterpiece,
 Breathless
, attempts to realise his ambition to ‘take a conventional story and remake, butdifferently, everything the cinema had been.’
3
This is attempted, in large part, through theconstruction of the protagonists, Patricia Franchini and Michel Poiccard. They are not therounded, realistic characters of classical Hollywood film, who are intended to seem toexist in the real world, but rather cinematic constructs who live and die with the length of celluloid. It is interesting to note that Godard does not precisely
reject 
Hollywood - theseare the characters of a first-generation cinephile director, intended to describe his vision,
1
Jean Narboni and Tom Milne (eds.)
Godard on Godard: Critical Writings
, NewYork, Da Capo, 1986.
2
Luc Moullet. ‘Jean-Luc Godard,’ in Hillier, Jim (ed.),
Cahiers du Cinéma
,
 – Volume 2, 1960-1968: New Wave, New
 
Cinema, Re-evaluating Hollywood 
, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986, pps.39-46.
3
Godard, quoted in
 
Hillier (ed.),
Cahiers du Cinéma - Vol. 2
, ‘Introduction: Re-thinking and Re-making French Cinema,’ p. 30.
3

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