Our knowledge of French New Wave cinema of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s is generally limited to the names of innovators and auteurs like Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Goddard.
But although less well-known outside of France, director Claude Chabrol—who died earlier today at age 80—started the movement with Goddard and Truffaut, and became one of the most prolific filmmakers of his time, averaging a film per year until his death.
A Hitchcock acolyte like his compatriot Truffaut, Chabrol played a key part in mainstreaming La Nouvelle Vague. Although he smoothed out some of the genre’s signature styles—improvisation, quick cuts and scene changes, characters stepping out of roles or addressing the camera—Chabrol retained the sense of alienation that imbued Paris as the Algerian War was coming to its pathetic end.
Dealing in class, desire, and compulsion, Chabrol brought a new view of film to the masses. Check out this scene from his fourth feature, Les Bonnes Femmes (The Good Time Girls, 1960), which follows the travails of four angst-ridden shop girls, each dealing with their drab existences in order to follow their obsessions, whether it’s the city’s nightlife or that mysterious motorcycle man.