EMMANUAL LAURENT'S new documentary, Two in the Wave, pieces together the friendship of the two directors most directly responsible for launching the now-legendary French New Wave: François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. Less a summation of the New Wave style than a cinephilic scrapbook of a passionately intellectual relationship, the film assumes a familiarity with the scene—so why not use it as an excuse to brush up on some of the significant works to have influenced, or that have been influenced, by the iconic era?
The first feature-length film from Truffaut was The 400 Blows, which—for kicking off an era of filmmaking that thumbed its nose at traditional filmic refinement—was heartily received at Cannes in 1959. It also launched the acting career of teen star Jean-Pierre Léaud, who features prominently in Laurent's documentary as the poster child of the New Wave, often caught between its two fathers' stormy relationship.
The 400 Blows paved the way for Godard's sexy 1960 film Breathless, which launched him onto the scene as a controversial director who blatantly broke the "rules" with now-standard practices like using natural light or handheld camerawork. It also features a mesmerizing Jean Seberg, whose cat eyes, pixie haircut, and stripes influence cool girls to this day.
Both Truffaut and Godard were profoundly influenced by Alfred Hitchcock—revisit 1958's Vertigo for references and borrowed techniques. And while Godard and Truffaut are associated mainly with the Right Bank of Paris, on the Left was the Rive Gauche scene, where Agnès Varda worked. Her 1962 day-in-the-life of a beauty queen, Cleo from 5 to 7, includes an early appearance from one of her lifelong muses: cats! (In this case, fluffy kittens!)
Finish off where Léaud does, with Day for Night, the 1973 self-referential film Truffaut was making when he and Godard bit the dust over differences regarding the role of art and film, and decide for yourself who was right.