The article that ma maison essay in french Truffaut as the leading critic of his generation. A year in the writing, the 1954 essay in Cahiers du Cinéma was a manifesto for change that inspired the French New Wave revolution. It would be nice to think that the meaning of the word ‘art’ can make men aware of the greatness they do not recognise in themselves.
The sole aim of the notes that follow is to try to define a certain tendency in the French cinema — a tendency known as that of ‘psychological realism’ — and to suggest its limitations. These ten to twelve movies represent what has been aptly described as ‘the Tradition of Quality’: their ambitiousness inevitably elicits the admiration of the foreign press, and they defend France’s colours twice a year at Cannes and Venice, where they have fairly regularly scooped up awards such as the Grand Prix and the Golden Lion since 1946. At the beginning of the talkies era, the French cinema was an honest carbon copy of the American cinema. Claude Autant-Lara, Jean Delannoy, René Clément, Yves Allégret and Marcello Pagliero. Robert Scipion, Roland Laudenbach and others. After first trying his hand at direction with two now forgotten short films, Jean Aurenche started specialising in adaptations for the screen.
Vous n’avez rien à déclarer? The touchstone of adaptation as practised by Aurenche and Bost is the so-called process of equivalence. Inventing without betraying’ is the watchword that Aurenche and Bost liked to cite, forgetting that one can also betray by omission. Aurenche and Bost’s system is so appealing in the very formulation of its principle that no one has ever thought of examining in detail how it works. I intend to do here. The talent they put into the task. The great diversity of inspiration displayed by the works and writers they have adapted will be obvious to all.
Davet, Gide, Radiguet, Queffelec, Boyer, Colette and Bernanos would, I imagine, need to possess a most unusual mental agility and a multiple personality, as well as a singular spirit of eclecticism. It also has to be remembered that Aurenche and Bost have worked with a wide range of directors. Delannoy, for example, likes to see himself as a mystical moralist. Since Bost was the technician of the duo, it would seem that the spiritual aspect of their joint enterprise was Aurenche’s responsibility.
Aurenche both felt nostalgic about, and rebelled against, his education at a Jesuit school. While he flirted with Surrealism, he seems to have been drawn to anarchist groups in the 1930s. That only goes to show what a strong personality he has, and how incompatible his personality would seem to be with those of Gide, Bernanos, Queffélec and Radiguet. But an examination of his work will probably tell us more about this aspect. This decline in quality is now, according to a rule familiar to aestheticians, matched by a quantitative increase. New characters are added, such as Piette and Casteran, who are supposed to represent certain feelings. Tragedy becomes drama, or melodrama.