My review of the 1965 New Wave omnibus film Six in Paris, recently released on DVD by New Yorker, is up at the Turner Classic Movies website.
The omnibus film – a feature made up of original short films by different directors, organized by a theme or a place – flowered in the sixties, especially in Europe, where directors of international repute were gathered to contribute short films on a variety of themes. Films from Boccaccio ’70 (1962) and RoGoPaG (1963) to The Witches (1967) and Spirits of the Dead (1968) brought together the cream of European directors, and even today the omnibus film occasionally resurfaces, as with Paris Je t’Aime, comprised of 18 shorts by 18 directors shooting stories in 18 separate neighborhoods (the “Arondissements”). You can trace the inspiration for that particular cinematic love letter to the city of lights directly back to Six in Paris, a film produced by Barbet Schroeder and directed by six of the most interesting and distinctive young filmmakers working in France in the 1960s. The French New Wave had exploded in the late fifties, when Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless and Claude Chabrol’s Le Beau Serge brought a breath of cinematic freshness and stylistic excitement to the largely staid French film industry. Barbet Schroeder, who was born in Tehran to European parents, grew up in Central Africa and Colombia, and studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, had been an integral part of the movement. His ambition was ultimately to direct, but the filmmaker found his greatest contribution to the vibrant film scene as a producer of Eric Rohmer’s early films.
The inspiration for Six in Paris came from Schroeder, who hit upon the omnibus format as a way to work with most exciting young filmmakers in France and to explore the possibilities of shooting with new lightweight 16mm cameras. “It was the beginning of 16mm with direct sound,” he explains in a new interview on the DVD, and he hoped that the new technology would offer the young filmmakers the freedom of shooting quickly and spontaneously, on location and in the streets. Schroeder approached six directors he wanted to work with and offered them the challenge of making a short film in this new filmmaking paradigm. They had carte blanche to develop their own stories, so long as it all took place within a single neighborhood of Paris. It was something of a revolutionary idea, as even the low-budget productions of the French New Wave had all been shot on 35mm. The idea of mixing documentary and fiction techniques was primary in his Schroeder’s mind, and each director took up the challenge with essentially the tools but his own distinctive approach
Read the complete piece here.