19. François Truffaut (1932 – 1984)
Though generally considered less important than Godard in the French New Wave brigade, François Truffaut kicked off the movement when The 400 Blows premiered at Cannes in 1959. Originally entering the industry as a critic with the influential journal Cahiers du Cinema, Truffaut published the infamous (and industry-changing) article “A Certain Tendency in the French Cinema” during his tenure. The article caused a stir among film critics and theorists—claiming that true innovation in film would only be achieved if the director asserted him/herself as the driving force behind it.
Not one to hide behind his words, Truffaut set about proving his theory, creating the autobiographical The 400 Blows. Like many other directors cited here, the enormous—and immediate—triumph of his freshman effort proved a difficult feat to live up to in later years. Though he had enormous success with such later films as Jules and Jim, Day for Night, Farenheit 451 and The Last Metro, the style he had helped to pioneer had become commonplace by the time his later efforts arrived, reducing Truffaut to—like many cinema innovators—constantly having to defend his later works.