The French New Wave describes the cinematic renaissance that occurred in France between 1959 and 1969. For ardent cinephiles, the movement is more accurately defined by the early films of five critics-turned-directors: Truffaut, Godard, Rohmer, Chabrol, and Rivette. However, complementary to these were modernist works by Resnais, Varda, Marker, and Demy of the Left Bank group. At the time, the capital was also home to filmmakers like Louis Malle whose aesthetics and methods were (for the most part) quite different. Importantly, all of these directors made a break with the encumbered, impersonal filmmaking of the past, choosing instead to get out into the streets and create art in their own, intimate style. In doing so, they produced characters and innovations that inspired future generations and opened up a window into the past for us, the lucky inhabitants of Paris today.
Les 400 Coups (François Truffaut, 1959)
Truffaut’s debut film, The 400 Blows, is most people’s introduction to the French New Wave, and is widely considered to be one of the greatest films of all time. It is the semi-autobiographical tale of the delinquent adolescent Antoine Doinel, whose life story would feature in four more of Truffaut’s films. In the scene below, we can see Antoine and his friend running across a terrace in front of the Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre, a spot which today is filled with tourists and itinerant tradesmen selling everything from keyrings to bottles of beer.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Les Cousins (Claude Chabrol, 1959)
Les Cousins was Chabrol’s second picture after 1958’s Le Beau Serge, and the two are considered by some to be mirror images of one another. The story follows, of course, two cousins, Paul and Charles, one a playboy and the other a naïve law student newly arrived in Paris, and draws heavily on Hitchcockian themes. Below, the pair are enjoying a drive around Paris in a convertible. Unfortunately (for them), today’s sports car drivers on the Champs-Élysées more often fall foul of the city’s congestion problems.
A Bout de Souffle (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960)
Godard’s first feature, Breathless, hit cinemas within 10 months of The 400 Blows and, along with Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959), they are considered to be the most influential of the movement. In the final scene of the film (which, yes, will leave you short of breath), Jean Seberg chases after her criminal lover, played in his breakthrough role by Jean-Paul Belmondo, who has just been shot by the pursuing police. The surface and the parked cars may have changed somewhat, but the building at the end of the road remains unchanged.
Paris Nous Appartient (Jacques Rivette, 1960)
Paris Belongs To Us, Rivette’s first full-length movie, took years to make due to a lack of funds and wasn’t popular with French audiences on its release. Nonetheless, it introduces themes – play rehearsals, mysteries, and conspiracies – that sustained the director through a five-decade career. The roof that you can see below belongs to the Théatre de la Ville on the riverfront facing the Île de la Cité. The Boulevard de Sébastopol in the foreground and the Paroisse Saint-Eustache church at Châtelet to the west are the most recognizable features on the cityscape today.
Zazie Dans le Métro (Louis Malle, 1960)
One of the Parisian ‘outsiders’, Malle’s third film, Zazie in the Metro, is the one which most closely aligns with the look and feel of the French New Wave. This adaptation of a novel by Raymond Queneau follows the titular character on a trip to visit her uncle in the capital. Devastated that she will not be able to ride the metro due to a strike, the youngster instead goes on a mad romp around the city, taking in some of its most famous monuments. Here she is on the cusp of bashing her uncle (rather undeservedly) on the head with a frying pan at the Pont de Bir-Hakeim, which, aside from the addition of a cycle path, looks as it did 56 years ago.
Jules et Jim (François Truffaut, 1962)
Easily the most famous cinematic ménage-à-trois in history, Jules and Jim follows the friendship of a shy Austrian and a French Bohemian and their flirtations with the former’s future wife Catherine, played by Jeanne Moreau. The film and its soundtrack are regular features on ‘Best of All Time’ lists and it is also Professor Stephen Hawking’s favorite movie – take it on the word of a genius that it is worth watching. Below, Ms. Moreau is taking a precarious stroll along the banks of the Seine at the Pont au Double, followed closely by her two admirers. You’ll never guess what she does next – and in that hat of all things!
Cléo de 5 à 7 (Agnès Varda, 1962)
Cléo from 5 to 7 is the second film by Agnès Varda and a masterpiece of French feminist cinema. The story unfolds practically in real time as a young pop singer awaits the results of medical tests related to her suspected stomach cancer. Moving through the city – from a tarot card reader’s apartment, through shops, cafés, cabs rides, a show-stopping rehearsal, and the Parc Montsouris – she heads bravely into the unknown. The park’s stairs and strange, Disney-inspired railings haven’t changed a bit.
Vivre sa View (Jean-Luc Godard, 1962)
Godard’s fourth film, My Life To Live, tells the story of an aspiring actress turned ill-fated prostitute in 12 distinct acts. The lead character of Nana was played by the director’s then-wife, Anna Karina, who has quite a story herself. Arriving in Paris at 17, penniless, and speaking only her native Danish, she lived on the street before being discovered by a modelling agent and going on to work for Pierre Cardin and Coco Chanel. In the establishing shot below, the Arc de Triomphe is seen from the northwest on the Avenue de Wagram.
Adieu Philippine (Jacques Rozier, 1962)
Like his namesake, Jacques Rozier also faced substantial difficulties getting his first picture made. Adieu Philippine took two years to arrive in the cinema, by which time it was lost within the buzz created around some of the bigger titles on this list. The director also took nearly a decade to make his next feature. The film is youthful and spontaneous and follows a TV technician on holiday in Corsica with his two Parisian girlfriends. In the scene below, Michel and one of his lovers enjoy a moonlit dance on the mountaintop above the Golfe de Porto – no doubt a hot-spot for romantic types even now.
Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1964)
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is the middle film of Demy’s romantic trilogy. A musical sung in its entirety, it follows the tragic love story of Guy and Geneviève, a role which made Catherine Deneuve a star. Set in the northern town of Cherbourg and during the Algerian War, the film is more middle-of-the-road than most associated with either the New Wave or the Left Bank groups, but its unforgettable score and songs have made it a classic of French cinema. Below, Deneuve watches as the train heads off in the direction of Paris on a platform whose ugliness has stood the test of time, much like her own beauty and talent.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.