My Gleanings

Friday, September 29, 2006

Casque d"Or and the New Wave

If you think in terms of history it is not that difficult to understand. The original scenario for "Casque d'Or" was written in the late 1930s by Henri Jeanson. At various times in the next ten years, various directors, including, in 1946, Becker, had shown interest in the screenplay. In 1951, Becker came back into the project and his first act was to "bin" Jeanson's screenplay and start all over again. In 1953, Jacques Rivette and Francois Truffaut recorded their first interview with a director, that being an interview of Becker which was published in February 1954. Remember that Truffaut published "A Certain Tendency" in January 1954, in other words Truffaut was interviewing Becker at the same time he was writing that article. Speaking of Jeanson’s screenplay, Becker called it “effective” but too “literary”.
In other words, the case can be made that “Casque d’Or” was the first “New Wave” film because the director made the conscious effort to discard a “quality” screenplay in order to shoot it in a different way. Truffaut would write in Avant Scene Cinema in 1964, “When I or any of my fellow scenarists are in trouble, we often say to each other, “How about a “Casque d’Or” solution.”
The problem was that the public and critics in France in 1953 were expecting “Le Blé en herbe” or “La Rouge et la Noir” and did not know what to make of this film.
André Bazin in Cahiers du Cinema Septembre 1955 number 50 wrote:
“The unflinching admiration of some English critics , as well as that Truffaut and Rivette for “Casque d’Or” had more and more impressed me. I was, in sum, rather near letting myself be convinced that my reviews in 1952 were unjust and that the film deserves rehabilitation. what I am saying is less than the truth. I will say here that it is not only the best of Becker but also his most beautiful....I express here my having been confused by it. Regrets for “Casque d’Or” shall be added to those for “Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne” in the conscience of this critic.”
The English critics that Bazin talks about would be the young Sequence/Sight and Sound crew of the early 50s, thus Tony Richardson (“A Taste of Honey”) Karel Reisz (“Saturday Night and Sunday Morning”) with Lindsay Anderson (“This Sporting Life”) on point.
Of course when “Casque d’Or” was re-released in France in 1963, many of its admirers had released their own films and now, like Bazin, the public was no longer “confused by it”.

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