Five French New Wave Classics You MUST Watch Before Avengers: End Game
So you want to prep before Avengers: Endgame, but you don’t have time to take in the entire French canon? We’ve got you covered, mon chéri. Here are the five French New Wave classics you MUST be familiar with before the new Avengers.
Un Calme Assis Avec L’Homme En Fer (‘A Quiet Sit with The Man Made From Iron’)
(Corentin Favreau, 1955)
Although dismissed by critics at the time (who did not take kindly to Favreau’s radical use of jump cuts) as ‘frivolous’, the quiet sit-down at the heart of Un Calme Assis Avec L’Homme En Fer is a potent reminder of what Avengers: Endgame is really all about – the search for higher meaning in our daily lives. We are, all of us, men made from iron, longing to one day return home.
Le Fantastique Hulk (‘The Fantastic Hulk’)
(Thibault Leterrier, 1956)
The ‘Hulk’ of Leterrier’s film is, much like Bruce Banner, a metaphor: an enormous man who silently crushes four women and an antique Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Freccia d’Oro across the film’s three hour run time to represent the repression of the postwar middle class. Thanos may have snapped away half of all life in Infinity War, but Leterrier’s film is a reminder that it does not matter whether those people are brought back or not if the world we bring them back into is devoid of love.
Le Désir, Le Désir, Le Désir Du Soldat (‘The Longing, Longing, Longing of the Norseman’)
(Maël Branagh, 1959)
Branagh’s tale of a Norse god who goes on a cross-country road trip, accompanied by the socialite he’s having an affair with – and, some post-feminist scholars argue, has ultimately kidnapped – is notable for never once showing the eponymous Norseman on screen. Some believe that his booming oration is simply a non-diegetic accompaniment to footage of an unexcited passenger. It’s the perfect way to revisit some vital mythology before Endgame – if the famous twenty minute monologue about kissing a smoker doesn’t get you psyched to see Thor and the other Avengers triumph, nothing will.
La Découverte D’un Soldat Français (‘A French Soldier’s Discovery’)
(Étienne Johnston, 1962)
Once described by Truffaut as “the only true art of the 20th century”, Johnston’s masterpiece consists of a single two-and-a-half-hour shot of an unnamed soldier silently watching Un Calme Assis Avec L’Homme En Fer in a cinema, only to get up at the end and reveal that the actor from the film he just saw, Robert Drouillard, was behind him the whole time, also watching. It’s the ultimate crossover event – until Endgame, that is.
Le Désespoir Hanté de L’Unité (‘The Haunting Despair of Unity’)
(Lucien Whedon, 1964)
Truthfully, Le Désespoir Hanté de L’Unité – in which numerous characters from the French New Wave canon come together to battle an alien threat – is a much less interesting riff on what came before, with soulless special effects and an unbecoming wit. But you must watch it, because it marks the first appearance of supervillain Thanos, here depicted as a farmer whose livelihood is ruined when The Fantastic Hulk intentionally blocks the spring leading to his farm, causing him agony and despair as his crops fail. Perhaps, in Endgame, the spring can be mended and we will finally see his farm succeed.
Did we miss any classic French New Wave films which everyone should check out? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!