All Movie Talk, Episode 13

Posted in Episodes at 5:00 am by Sam

Show contents, with start times:

  • Film Style Spotlight: French New Wave (1:49)
  • Trivia Question: Fanfares of Love (17:49)
  • Best of the Year: 1980-1989 (18:32)
  • Film Buff’s Dictionary: Cold Open (31:27)
  • Top 6: Movie Openings (38:20)
  • Famous Frame: Singin’ In the Rain (52:29)
  • Closing: Trivia Answer, Preview of Next Week (57:17)

Press the Play button below to listen to the podcast, or the Download link to save it. Here’s how you can download new episodes automatically.

Show Notes:


The French “Avec! Avec!” literally just means “With! With!” which is just one of the reasons it’s so funny when Parisians shout this out as they flee the malodorous Pepe Le Pew.

Film Style Spotlight: French New Wave

Speaking of France, the French New Wave was a movement in French cinema that began in the late 1950s and is characterized by a rejection of older cinematic conventions. It is interesting not only because it produced a bumper crop of great films, but also because it heavily influenced cinema throughout the world.

Its roots are traced to Italian Neo-Realism and the Cahiers du cinema, a French film journal that employed many upcoming directors as critics. Among those critics was Francois Truffaut, whose 1959 film The 400 Blows is generally seen as the start of the movement — though some make a case for Louis Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows (1958) or, more rarely, Agnes Varda’s La Pointe-courte (1956).

In 1960 director Jean-Luc Godard released his memorably off-kilter gangster film Breathless, which among other things helped to establish the jump cut as a viable editing tool.

Other important or interesting New Wave films we discuss include the surreal Last Year at Marienbad (1961) by Alain Resnais and the musical Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) by Jacques Demy.

Not every prominent director in France around this time was making New Wave films, though surely every French film after 1960 was at least partly influenced by the New Wave. For instance, the great director of gangster pictures Jean-Pierre Melville had a style all of his own well before the New Wave began. And somebody like Luis Bunuel is practically a film movement unto himself.

Trivia Question: Fanfares of Love

It seems that Stephen botched the trivia question a bit. The mystery movie is based on an earlier German work, but the plot description Stephen gave on the show is actually for an even earlier French film. Mea culpa.

Best of the Year: 1980-1989

Film Buff’s Dictionary: Cold Open

The cold open is a simple but effective way to start a story: just start telling it without any other fanfare. A movie is said to have a cold open if we begin seeing the story before the opening credits. Almost unheard of since the earliest days of films — when movies had no credits, period — George Lucas opened Star Wars (1977) with a mostly cold open. That film opens with a title screen, but no credits, and launches right into the story. Lucas’ decision to open The Empire Strikes Back (1980) in the same way over the protests of the writers’ and directors’ unions led to his resignation from those organizations.

Since then, the move has become increasingly common, though generally films still have some kind of credit scene at the beginning. For instance, the James Bond movies begin with an action sequence before the credits. Almost every modern American television show eschews opening credits together, starting with a cold open and then a short title scene.

Top 6: Movie Openings

See our separate Top 6 entry for more information about our picks.

Famous Frame: Singin’ In the Rain

A picture is normally worth a thousand words, but our words are worth more than usual — they’re just that good. Still, if you want to see the frame in question:

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  1. Aaron (35) said,

    December 26, 2006 at 3:01 pm

    A bit of an error in editing in the Best Of segment… when talking about the Oscar pick Sam ends up saying that “[…] this was the year of Raging Bull. The problem was, this was the year of Raging Bull.”

  2. Gharlane (12) said,

    December 26, 2006 at 6:27 pm

    Hmmm, hard to argue with Back To The Future, I suppose, although I’ve only seen it ONCE; I had no desire to see it afterward and haven’t even seen the sequels.. My favorite of 1985 would have to be Brazil; I always see something new each viewing. 1980’s Raging Bull was incredible; my second behind that would be The Empire Strikes Back, with The Shining not even in my top 6. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t care much for the horror movie genre.

    The Verdict was much more entertaining than Gandhi (a good film to have seen once, but that’s plenty, as Sam said). Blade Runner would edge it out for me, though.

    The French New Wave segment was interesting as a guide to where some modern cinematic trends and techniques come from, but I’ve never been able to get into the stories of most of them. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste. :)

    Once again, good show, guys!

  3. Stephen (221) said,

    December 26, 2006 at 10:39 pm

    Show notes are finished. Sorry for the partials this morning — I lost track of it with the long weekend.

  4. Sam (405) said,

    December 27, 2006 at 10:23 am

    Aaron: Fixed that little problem. The episode is about two seconds shorter now. Thanks for pointing that out.

  5. Stephen (221) said,

    December 27, 2006 at 10:30 am

    I thought that was intentional, as a joke. Huh.

  6. Grishny (156) said,

    December 27, 2006 at 10:49 am

    So did I, Stephen. It didn’t sound that unnatural to me.

  7. siochembio (82) said,

    December 28, 2006 at 11:48 pm

    I haven’t listened to this episode yet, owing to the fact that I’m about one and a half episodes behind (but catching up fast!), but I’m really looking forward to the French New Wave section.

    I just saw “The 400 Blows” recently for the first time, and it was my first ever New Wave film… and I didn’t really get it. I always hate admitting that, especially on movie communities, but I just didn’t get it. What’s the big deal? He’s a kid with a tough life. Okay…

    So, anyway, I’m determined to watch more from that era, and I’m hoping that your segment will help me appreciate the films and understand their significance better, and maybe help me understand “The 400 Blows” more. *crosses fingers*

  8. Sam (405) said,

    December 29, 2006 at 12:05 am

    siochembio: Honestly, that was my initial reaction as well. It’s one of those situations where the movie’s influence was so pervasive that it’s hard to see it with fresh eyes. It took some thought and reflection for me to fully appreciate it.

    I think the single thing I like most about it was how insightful and candid it is at portraying adolescence. I can’t really think of an earlier film that does that with as much understanding. Teenagers in movies before that tended to fall into one of a couple different stock types, but Antoine Doinel is a unique character in his own right.

    For pure entertainment reasons, you may find some of the later Doinel films more appealing. My own favorites, even though they’re not as cinematically groundbreaking, are Stolen Kisses and Bed and Board.

    I hope the French New Wave segment lives up to your hopes. If not, we’ll get a second chance with a more focused follow-up on this subject, which will air in another three weeks.

  9. Stephen (221) said,

    December 29, 2006 at 2:00 am

    The nice thing about the French New Wave is that it’s so diverse. Truffaut doesn’t work for you? Try Godard or Malle, or even later Truffaut (his later films are generally more fun, though none carry the emotional impact of 400 Blows).

    And I think Sam pretty much nails it — what film better depicts the feelings of being a smart adolescent? Not only does it perfectly convey that feeling, it does it through incredibly inventive cinematic techniques.

  10. siochembio (82) said,

    December 29, 2006 at 2:04 pm

    Sam - regarding “The 400 Blows” being the first great depiction of adolescence - I had never thought of that. Good point. During the past year, I’ve been going through classic films chronologically (I’m up to the mid-1950’s now), and you’re right, I can’t think of anything earlier that portrays late childhood in such a light.

    Stephen - thanks for the other suggestions. I’ll get to Godard and Malle, and it’s good to know they’re not just carbon copies of Truffaut/Truffaut’s work. (see, really, these are things I don’t know!)

  11. Rifty (64) said,

    December 31, 2006 at 10:18 pm

    I had a question about some, for lack of a better word, formatting.

    It’s probably too much trouble, and you probably won’t consider it, but would it be possible to take all the different series that you have running and group them all together in one spot?

    For instance, could you take the four Good Bad Movie segments you’ve got so far and make them downloadable as seperate segments unto themselves? You could do the same with the James Bond series, the Best Movies series, The Film Buff’s Dictionary, etc etc.

    Just a thought. As I say, probably not possible, but I thought I’d throw it out there as an idea.


  12. ThePhan (128) said,

    January 2, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    My forever late and not very deep comments. Listening to this week’s episode later.

    -Gasp. “Sacre bleu” is a nasty French obscenity.

    -Okay, my Best Of thoughts: I liked a lot of movies from 1980. I think I’m going to have to go with Ordinary People, though. I really liked it. I like Airplane! too, though. Never seen Raging Bull or The Shining, although I want to see The Shining.
    1981: Probably On Golden Pond. I do like Raiders, though.
    1982: Hmmm. I rather like Deathtrap, it’s fun and silly. Not crazy about Blade Runner. E.T. is okay.
    1983: The only movies I saw from this year that I even liked were Return of the Jedi and A Christmas Story.
    1984: Most definitely Spinal Tap. It was my favorite movie that I saw for the first time this year. Top Secret is kinda fun but very silly. Amadeus was fascinating but not my favorite.
    1985: I liked a lot of these, actually. Breakfast Club was interesting. Back to the Future is just pure fun. Ladyhawke is a blast.
    1986: I like NOTHING all that much I’ve seen from this year. Ferris Bueller’s is fun but fluff. But on the plus side, this is when I was born.
    1987: The Princess Bride. Of course. Although Raising Arizona and Lethal Weapon were both fun.
    1988: I do like Rain Man, but I also think A Fish Called Wanda and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels are terribly fun.
    1989: I do love Driving Miss Daisy. I have a soft spot for Bill and Ted, and When Harry Met Sally. But my choice is… SINBAD OF THE SEVEN SEAS! Ahem. I am kidding. I don’t know.

  13. Dave (130) said,

    January 2, 2007 at 11:36 pm

    -Gasp. “Sacre bleu” is a nasty French obscenity.

    I think you’re joking, but I’ll bite anyway. Sacre bleu is actually a nonsense phrase made up specifically to avoid saying a nasty French obscenity. I believe at one hyper-sensitive point in French history, it too was considered obscene merely for sounding like the real obscenity, but thankfully that bit of insanity passed I believe.

  14. ThePhan (128) said,

    January 3, 2007 at 10:02 am

    Heh. Yeah, I was mostly joking, but actually, I have heard varying accounts from various people on how harsh the phrase actually is (same with “Zut alors”). Some claimed it was so obsolete it wasn’t really considered anything any more, others said that it was just mild, and a few did claim it was considered very rude. It’s possible that it’s a regional deal… Canada vs France or something. Or that a lot of these people just made their answers up. :-)

  15. wintermute (157) said,

    January 4, 2007 at 10:24 am

    I was interested to hear the segment on cold opens. So far as TV goes I’ve generally found myself considering cold opens to be an “American thing” - the only British show I can think of which uses one is the excellent Life on Mars from 2006. Which is interesting, as it’s really a 1970’s British crime drama.

    I suspect that the difference is to do with the way ad breaks are structured - British ad breaks in the middle of a programme will have a splash screen before and after the break, with the name of the show being watched, which serves to tell you when it’s safe to go and make a cup of tea, whereas, in America, they go from show to commercial and back abruptly, so that you need to keep paying attention. Which is clearly good for the advertisers.

    And I think that cold opens vs hot opens (is that the right term? I just guessed) is much the same thing - it’s a method of making sure people actually watch the adverts that immediately precede the show, rather than simply waiting to hear the theme music.

    Of course, this is all overly cynical, and there are certainly shows that use the cold open with artistry (pretty much any flavour of Star Trek comes to mind), but often I get the impression that it’s to benefit the advertisers rather than the story.

    And I just found out that there’s going to be an American version of Life on Mars this year. I’m not going to hold out any great hope for it, but it’ll probably be worth a view.

  16. siochembio (82) said,

    January 5, 2007 at 11:06 pm

    The New Wave section was pretty good. It’ll definitely help me when I get around to seeing my next New Wave film, and I think I appreciate “The 400 Blows” more, but… I still don’t really like it. Ah well.

    Sam - “Pirates of Penzance?” *virtual high five* I have a copy of the 1980 live performance (from Netflix) in Central Park. It’s the stage production on which the movie was based. I LOVE it (despite the fact that the video quality is complete poo). I’m a huge G&S fan, and of their seven or eight operettas I know inside out, Pirates is my favorite, and of the three different DVD versions of Pirates I have, the live Kevin Kline one is BY FAR my favorite. I’ve only seen the 1983 movie once (because it’s not available on DVD - aack!), but I’d really like to revisit it. *revels in G&S nerd-dom*

  17. siochembio (82) said,

    April 5, 2007 at 8:18 pm

    I know this is old, but I just saw a New Wave film that I actually really loved, and that is “My Life to Live” (from 1965, I think) by Godard. I loved the main character, Nana - I found her fascinating and absolutely hypnotic, and I was legitimately stunned by the end. So although I’ve seen about half a dozen and this is the first that I’ve really fallen for, I go back to Stephen’s point that there’s tremendous range in these movies.

  18. Eric (44) said,

    August 10, 2007 at 8:38 pm

    I know I’m a bit late on this, but you guys and the Oscars all had the wrong Best Film for 1980. The actual best film is this one: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081746/

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