The French New Wave of Feelings and YeYe
Megan pulled off her coup: a hip cosmospolitan soiree that left the guests yearning to go home and have sex. But where did the foal-like Canadian get her moves from? Where did the sex-kitten, bob cut, hip swish and a peek-a-boo routine originate? Answer: France! Her whole routine was decidedly French New Wave, right down to the casually slumped, hip young crowd on the Draper’s couch.
Beginning in the late 50s with the “auteur theory”, which, not to get you all worked up, was the new and somewhat daring idea that a director was the owner, or the author, of his film. This seed blossomed into a full-fledged manifesto with a number of hot-shot young directors espousing it, including Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Agnes Varda, and Alain Resnais. The French New Wave was about an aloof stance against the corrupt, flimsy nature of the world. Instead of nihilism or hot-headed rebellion, the New Wavers sought truth in the romanticism of youth, beauty and art.
There’s no better film that encompasses Nouvelle Vague’s values than Godard’s 1966 masterpiece Masculin-Feminin (a film so trendy it’s STILL inspiring sensitive young artistesses to get that fabulous haircut). Masculin-Feminin works in the strong Marxist elements of the New Wave, mocking commercialism while simultaneously realizing there’s no escape from it — ATTENDANCE TO THE BEAN BALLET IS MANDATORY. In world of bullshit politics, crass commercialism, and an overall corrupt reality the one thing the kids could count on were their feelings.
Much like many a movement, though the origins of the French New Wave were grounded in theory and a lot of intelligent philosophizing, what ended up leaking through to the mainstream culture was all visual. The aesthetic of the French New Wave was very firmly mod, with Twiggy-like haircuts, tons of cat-eye eyeliner, and A-line dresses. And there were plenty of nonsense songs like the one we heard Our Lady of the Uncomfortable Role-Play sing last night. And that’s how you get, as just one example, the Ye-Ye Girls.
Ye-Ye, spawned in part from the Beatles’ “She loves you yeah yeah yeah”, is a pop-rock genre defined by its staccato bass line, go-go tempo, minimalist, and unfussy female sound. What each Ye-Ye song had was a smoldering but seemingly unobtainable sex kitten cooing the do-do-da-da sounds. The female lead of Masculin Feminin was an aspiring Ye-Ye Girl, as was the real life actress Chantal Goya.
“Zou Bisou Bisou” was a Ye-Ye classic and, as we know, very catchy — all the boys of SCDP had it stuck in their heads all weekend.
Footnote by Natasha Simons