The period of freedom and creative fruitfulness did not last long, and was interrupted by the Second World War; in June 1940, when the German troops arrived in Paris, film production was banned for over six months (only 6 films were made in that year). As soon as it was resumed, with funding from the Vichy government, which had banned the distribution of Anglo-Saxon films, the production activity returned to fairly discrete levels (about 70 films a year between 1941 and 1943), but within the of completely different genres. To circumvent Nazi censorship, whose goal was to favor light entertainment films and prevent true national cinematography, the few poetic realism directors left in their homeland re-bent on mythical-literary and fantastic subjects: must be remembered L’éternel retour (1943; L’immortale leggenda) by Jean Delannoy, to which the screenplay by Jean Cocteau gave a lyrical-melodramatic tone, Les visiteurs du soir (1942; L’amore e il diavolo) and Les enfants du paradis (1945; Lost Lovers), both directed by Carné, which significantly changed the ways and themes for which the director was known. Grémillon was among the few who managed to find a less evasive formula, combining poetry and national identity under the banner of a populist elegy of work in Lumière d’été (1943) and Le ciel est à vous (1944; The sky is yours). In this last film the protagonist is an aviator who tries to break a record, thus playing a purely male role: in the busy world, and in the cinematic imagination of the period, in fact, the
According to Franciscogardening, the end of the war did not cause significant changes. Production, which dropped to 17 films in 1944, resumed, averaging 80 films per year between 1945 and 1948; but on a stylistic level, unlike what happened in Italy with Neorealism, there was a continuity with the cinema of the occupation period. With the exception of René Clément’s early films, subjects on the Resistance or of an antimilitarist character, such as Le silence de la mer (1949; The silence of the sea) by Jean-Pierre Melville, were spoiled by the long wave of poetic realism in the variant of a mild psychological characterization; the experiments and denouncing cinema of the early 1960s (Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, J.-L. Godard) should have been awaited for an examination of the war conflicts. Postwar censorship extended to all representations of the popular world, which had to be purged of dangerous elements, such as depression and alcoholism; only in non-commercial circuits were unsweetened forms shown, albeit in a frame of simplicity and purity, such as Georges Rouquier’s documentary Farrebique (1947). In the absence of a new and unifying fabric, emerging authors such as Jacques Becker, Henri-Georges Clouzot and Robert Bresson, who had debuted during the previous decade, each retained individual characters and interests. albeit in a frame of simplicity and purity, like the documentary Farrebique (1947) by Georges Rouquier. In the absence of a new and unifying fabric, emerging authors such as Jacques Becker, Henri-Georges Clouzot and Robert Bresson, who had debuted during the previous decade, each retained individual characters and interests.
In 1946 the first edition of the Cannes Film Festival it showed how much national production lacked a new aesthetic, and was in a weaker position compared to Italian and American films; the latter, moreover, remained blocked during the whole conflict, now flowed en masse in the cinemas thanks to a particularly generous distribution policy towards the United States. It was only in 1948 that the government initiated a policy of economic aid which in the second half of the 1950s, thanks to incentives based on the artistic value of the work, would open the doors to the New Wave. The foundations of future change, in some respects, had been laid by the great success of the magazines of the sector: in 1945 the popular “L’écran français” had a circulation of over one hundred thousand copies, and constituted the nucleus from which more sectorial publications would be derived, starting with “La revue du cinéma”, where many critics were formed who would converge in 1951 in the “Cahiers du cinéma”. The magazines, also favored by the proliferation of film clubs, created a new approach to cinema, oscillating between notional morbidity and cultural ambitions: cinephilia., some, already from the second half of the previous decade), who entrusted the nostalgic values of the past to comedy and opera in costume. However, the cost of these productions, mainly made in the studio, would soon become too high for the new market and not very competitive with the Hollywood industry, this favored, at the end of the fifties, the filming in natural environments typical of the Nouvelle vague. Among the directors of the old guard, the one who received the greatest success was Clair, who returned to France to make Le silence est d’or (1947; Silence is golden), a nostalgic re-enactment of the dawn of cinema, with Maurice Chevalier, followed by Les belles de nuit (1952; The beauties of the night), an interesting fantastic comedy about time travel, and Les grandes manœuvres (1955; Grand maneuvers), the latter two with Gérard Philipe, a new face that has become successful thanks to Le diable au corps (1947; The devil in the body) by Claude Autant-Lara, who caused a scandal at the time.