What was it about post-war Paris that produced Godard, Cahiers and the New Wave? Geoffrey Nowell-Smith looks back in languor at a time for fun and political ferment
For a young artist or intellectual, Paris just after World War II was a good place to be. It's true there were shortages, especially of heating fuel. But if your flat was cold, why not go out to a café where you might catch a glimpse of Jean-Paul Sartre or Juliette Gréco? Or, better still, go and watch a film. For this was a great period for the movies. French cinema itself wasn't particularly spectacular. Those leading directors of the 30s - Renoir, Clair, Duvivier, Ophuls - who had escaped to the US in 1940 weren't all in a great hurry to return. Those who had stayed, like Carné or Grémillon, or had emerged as new talents during the occupation, such as Clouzot or Clément, seemed uncertain what direction to take in the new circumstances.