In the early 1960s, critic and curator Richard Roud, faced with the “luxuriant flowering” of so many new talents under the wide umbrella of the French New Wave, attempted to draw a distinction between the directors allied with the influential journal Cahiers du cinéma (including Claude Chabrol, François Truffaut, and Jean-Luc Godard) and what he dubbed the “Left Bank” group. This latter rubric embraced a loose association of makers that consisted principally of the directors Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, and Agnès Varda. The classification, which Roud admitted was a bit of a conceit, had been enacted for the simple fact that the Left Bank area of Paris was home to each of these directors. But Roud associated this neighborhood with a “state of mind” as well—one that in his estimation was synonymous with “a fondness for a kind of Bohemian life and an impatience with the conformity of the Right Bank, a high degree of involvement in literature and the plastic arts, and a consequent interest in experimental filmmaking.” He recognized as well that this community, long a center of the avant-garde, was also “traditionally frequented by the political Left.”
While Roud sadly passed away in 1988, the three directors whom he had first united nearly forty years ago continue to be actively engaged in filmmaking that is replete with as much intellect and adventurousness as ever. The shorts, documentaries, and features these directors have created could easily fill a month of our programming. Instead we present an intertwined sampling from the collective oeuvre of the “Left Bank” group.