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COMING OF AGE: LATE STYLE AND THE FRENCH NEW WAVE

Eric Rohmer, Les Amours d’Astrée et de Céladon (The Romance of Astrea and Celadon), 2007, still from a color film in 35 mm, 109 minutes. Léonide (Cécile Cassel) and Céladon (Andy Gillet).

In the history of art, late works are the catastrophes.

—Theodor W. Adorno

The lucky ones are the defeated.

—from Jean-Luc Godard’s Notre Musique (2004)

THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY of the French New Wave in 2009 proved to be both milestone and death knell. Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol subsequently passed away, Jacques Rivette made his final film, and, from his sanctuary in Rolle, Switzerland, Jean-Luc Godard announced his ultimate project, Film Socialisme (2010), before disposing of the visual matériel he had spent decades hoarding for his montage essays. (The fifth member of the Nouvelle Vague, François Truffaut, died of a brain tumor in 1984.) In the transformation of these filmmakers over half a century, from young and seditious cinéastes maudits to éminences grises, what became of the New Wave’s maverick nature, of the innovations and insurgence that impelled its

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