MEDA101 Lecture, Week 10 – Subverting Cinematic Conventions

In the 1950’s and 60’s there were ignificant political and cultural changes that may have influenced cinema and its conventions. These include:

  • Sexual revolution (female oral contraception were introduced)
  • Civil rights (feminist and African American)
  • Youth rebellion and counter cultural movement
  • Cold war
  • Vietnam war
  • Existentialism (Europe) (moving away from religions and focusing on ourselves and our context shaping our own world)

During this time, a very personal approach was taken to film making and directors started to focus on representing themselves and their styles through how they directed films.

Robert Bresson

Bresson stripped films down to their bare bones, filming in exact locations and moving away from the Hollywood glamour vibes. He was labelled the “father of French Cinema” as he paved the way for French cinematic conventions. He really presented the protagonist world in the existential sense. Where the “stories are the protagonist” and the focus was on the world of the individual.

Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman played with what we see as modern sexuality and explored what others hadn’t in terms of sexuality on screen, such as the women being in charge rather than the sexual victim, a sort of femme fatale vibe. He played with a simple aesthetic and it was said that his films “not only told the story… it was the story” (Mark Cousins). He really incorporated images from the subconscious and brought to the industry the sense of the film being a part of the story itself not just telling the narrative. (see the  medium is the message blog post)

Frederico Fellini

Fellini put pieces of themselves into their work and the movies they directed. Frederico Fellini had recurring religious themes that would have been reflected by his catholic religious upbringing. His enthusiasm for circus was very accessible through his vibrant movies, circus-like characters and very improvised scripts.

La Nouvelle Vague – French New Wave

The French New Wave was really the first generation to have come out of film schools. It saw lots of intellectual film making as things were learnt rather than practiced or stumbled upon. it was also a time where film critique was beginning and becoming popular (Cahiers du Cinema). There was a super low budget for making films – cheaper equipment was used, non-Hollywood actors and made on location

Francois Truffaut

Truffaut thought that other films were too political and explored issues that were happening at the time and expressed through experimental forms. He believed films should celebrate the medium.

Jean-Luc Godard

Godard was labelled a “movie terrorist” as he shattered film conventions in a playful way. He explored using movies as a sensory experience, where we weren’t just immersed in the narrative but really seeing the expression of the director. He used many unconventional editing techniques such as jump cuts that didn’t necessarily fit with the telling of the narrative and scenes that showed the back of the character’s heads in the car, rather than the front, which would have been the conventional way to go about things (Breathless).

Left Bank

The Left Bank includes directors such as  Agnels Vard, Alain Resnais and Chris Marker, who

were very literary focused and quite political. They created documentaries that also had very fictional elements (e.g. fictional scenes addressing very real issues).

Contemporary art cinema – Matthew Barney

The French New Wave was exploring the unique world of characters through cinematic form, whereas Matthew Barney is creating a whole cinematic world through his work. All of his work is very biologically informed. His work has elements outside of his films are part of reality. There’s an entire “Matthew Barney world” around his filmmaking, which you could compare to how the filmmakers of the French new wave and 50’s and 60’s integrated themselves in their work.



As Assignment 3 for MEDA101 is based on where I’m from, like the cinematic conventions of the 1950’s and 60’s and the New French Wave, the way that I direct the film will reflect who I am and my life. Everything from the editing and filming style to what is shown in the video itself.


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