Two In The Wave
Director: Emmanuel Laurent
Emmanuel Laurent's documentary about the friendship and rivalry between Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut is more a self-contained story about the filmmakers than an exploration of the pair's standing in the French New Wave.
For those seeking the bigger picture, Richard Brody's hefty 2009 biography of Godard might be a better source of information. Still, Laurent has managed to solicit enough paraphernalia (such as photos of the young Godard and Truffaut, particularly one image showing them as teenage cinephiles at the Festival du Film Maudit in Biarritz in 1950) to make Two in the Wave an interesting addition to the wealth of material about the nouvelle vague.
Written and narrated by Truffaut biographer Antoine de Baecque, the documentary offers enough still and moving images to pique the interest of anyone faintly interested in French cinema or, more specifically, one of the most fruitful but rocky relationships to have emerged in contemporary filmmaking. Baecque provides all the details of their beginnings - Truffaut the self-learned, working-class lad, Godard the rich boy from a Swiss Protestant clan - and the bond that developed as the pair lined up in the early 1960s first as film critics and then as directors.
The pair famously parted ways after 1968, when Godard became increasingly obsessed with left-wing politics and criticised Truffaut's work as reactionary. The falling out was cemented when Godard lambasted Truffaut's 1973 film Night for Day, a warm piece about filmmaking which Godard (rightly) saw as an attack on his Contempt, the 1967 film trashing commercial cinema of the time.
In one of the documentary's most interesting tangents, actor Jean-Pierre Leaud - who appeared in both films by Truffaut and Godard - is portrayed as a lost child split between two warring parents. While he rises to fame in one guise in Truffaut's work - mostly for his turn as Antoine Doinel in films such as The 500 Blows, but also in later films like Night and Day - Godard seeks to mould him in another in his increasingly radicalised films (Masculine, Feminine; La Chinoise).
It would have been good if Laurent and Baecque took the artistic leap and shaped this documentary a la a story about the rise and fall of a frictional marriage.