Suzanne Richardson


Nouvelle Vague


after we broke up there wasn’t anything left of him except his Netflix account. He packed his belongings into a moving truck, and sold a bunch of stuff on Craigslist before I could say, but I love you, you Bastard. The couch was the last thing to sell. It sat up there on the “For Sale” link under “furniture” for what seemed like forever and the price kept going down. Antique Toile Couch for $100—I would check on it every so often, thinking of all the times we fucked on that couch, all the times we made love, all the times I went down on him, digging his thighs with my nails. Then it was, Antique Toile Couch good shape $75. Then it was fifty bucks and then it was gone. That’s the kind of thing I could really dwell on, the idea of some other people sitting on our couch having a more functional relationship than us, having better sex than us. So, I went home after work and sat at my computer, and thought to zone out with some random movie. That’s when I realized he hadn’t logged out of his Netflix account the last time we’d streamed a movie in bed.

Maybe it’s because my father was a Lawrence of Arabia, Spaghetti Western kind of guy, that’s the reason I fell for the Nouvelle Vague guy. My mother is more of a British Period Romance With A Strong Female Lead kind of person, and maybe that’s how my parents work together. My father was the cowboy, getting the herd through a big river, and my mother, the Jane Austen heroine, bodiced up, tightly sipping teas and corner-gossiping. I wanted something different, something more modern.

I met him at a film screening in SOHO. I had just broken up with a Charlie Chaplin freak who liked feet and silent movies. I decided to take in some French film and found myself at a midnight showing of Agnès Varda’s 1962 film Cléo de 5 à 7. From the moment the opening credits started, I knew (much like Cleo who receives a terrible tarot reading) that I was doomed. The guy next to me kept brushing my knee as I sipped my coke. Cleo’s reading told of a life of struggle, no marriage, only death. I suspected some sort of oblivion was coming over me when he asked for my number on the steps of the theatre. It was his first French film too, he admitted, and we should watch more, maybe together. So we watched them all, François Truffaut, Éric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Rivette, Agnès Varda, Jacques Demy, and of course, my favorite, Jean‐Luc Godard. Sometimes we stayed up all night watching, rolling up late to our jobs in the morning with our eyes bloodshot and swollen with Anna Karina, Jean Seberg, and Jeanne Moreau. I thought we might get married, maybe move to France. I thought, at the very least, we could carry on like a Truffaut film forever. Long extended shots and glances back and forth with cryptic, hopeless dialogue. Even if things got complicated, like in Jules et Jim, we could ward off one another’s hatred by finding a third person to both love, or we could find some tragic Greek allusion that would pattern our fate, like a Cocteau film.

I found it comforting at first that I could see what he was watching. All the French films I had ordered on his Netflix were lined up like ducks, and he was keeping on track, even rating them 1‐5 stars as he saw fit. I approved of his new additions to our list. I didn’t dare log out of his account, so I opened my own Netflix on my work computer, and started mirroring some of his picks. I was hoping we were even watching them on the same nights. We often had the same ratings.

Months passed like that, but I knew he was seeing someone when his taste in film changed. It seemed overnight, he went from Nouvelle Vague to Emotional Foreign Docu‐Dramas, then without warning it was suddenly Cerebral Conspiracy Documentary. I was appalled, so I watched Cocteau’s 1950 film Orphée streaming on his account every night as I fell asleep to try to get his attention. I hoped he would see the symbolism of a poet who can’t decide between two women, one being death, (of course I imagined his current girlfriend as death and myself as the wife who gets killed early on.) At the very least, I hoped he’d remember how we’d watched it together on a Sunday while drinking Kir Royales after burning heart shaped waffles. I mean, the plan was pretty convoluted, pathetic even, but I had to try in my own small way. Surely he would have noticed it was always a “recent watch” but there was no call, no email. So when his whole list changed, and there was no sign of the Nouvelle Vague, no directors even from early 70s French films on his queue, I took drastic measures. I drank a bottle of skanky Sav Blanc, and at 3am I erased his entire queue and put only Godard’s 1965 film Pierrot Le Fou. I had to send him a real message, you know? After that, his account went dead.

Years later I saw him at birthday party with a ring on his finger. I was seeing someone else by then, a guy who liked Visually Stunning Dark Sci‐Fi Fantasy films, someone who was probably better suited for me and my Violent Cult Supernatural film propensity. I stumbled by my Nouvelle Vague, knowing full well that he had become an Emotional Crime TV Show lover, and a chronic Father‐Son Drama Based on a Book watcher right before he cut me off. I wanted to ask him about the girl who had changed him into a Cerebral Conspiracy Documentary person for a spell. I wanted to know if he’d married her. I wanted to know if he’d gotten my Godard message and that’s why his account went dead. But I didn’t say anything when I walked by, that’s how strange we were to each other. Like characters in Bresson’s Pickpocket, we had fondled one another momentarily, gotten what we wanted, and left. Sad really.

The Nouvelle Vague, or “New Wave,” French film lasted about seven years, from 1958 to 1965. My relationship with my Nouvelle Vague lasted about that long. A lot can happen in seven years, you can grow together in ways that reshape your concept of self. You can change the face of French film by being politically and socially self‐conscious, or by breaking away from classical tropes and narrative.

Does anyone ever stay with their Nouvelle Vague? That person who, no matter what the lighting, always looks like they belong in a 60s French film? That person who makes your heart black and white like the streets of Paris? Director Jean Luc Godard married his actress and muse Anna Karina. Their relationship lasted seven years. In a 1967 interview, after their divorce, both Godard and Karina were asked if it’s possible to be happy after such an intense relationship. Karina responded: Yes, one can be happy, but in a different way. Godard responded: No, I believe one can be much happier. Karina then excused herself from the interview to cry.

The last ten minutes of Godard’s 1965 film Pierrot Le Fou show Ferdinand (Jean‐Paul Belmondo) shooting and murdering his lover Marianne (Anna Karina) and her new lover. Belmondo then paints his face blue while standing on an ocean cliff looking over the Mediterranean. He wraps his head in two layers of dynamite and lights the fuse A quick camera pan-out shows his hands struggling suddenly to tamp out the fire: he’s made a mistake, he doesn’t want to die, but the fire snakes up the fuses, whipping them back and forth like a ribbon in the wind. Before you know it, the camera is one cliff over watching Belmondo explode. More smoke than you’d expect pours off that cliff, but that’s love: something burned; there are no survivors—the end. For a long time I didn’t understand that, I thought there was more to it; but now I see that love is a moment; and it makes for a pretty bad movie, if you ask me.



Suzanne Richardson was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina, where she received an alternative education at Carolina Friends School K-12. She then graduated from Bard College in 2005 with a degree in English and Creative Writing. Suzanne currently lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she is an MFA candidate at the University of New Mexico, teaching English and creative writing. Suzanne has been editor-in-chief of Blue Mesa Review since 2010. Her nonfiction is forthcoming in New Ohio Review, issue 11. Her poetry has appeared in Blood Orange Review, and is forthcoming The Smoking Poet, as well as PANK Magazine.

“When I think of my back porch I think of our family dogs. I have vivid memories of our cocker spaniels sunning themselves, or snoozing in their bed baskets. I used to sit on the steps and pick fleas off of their pink bellies after school. In summer, I sat on the steps and ate popsicles, afraid of the possibility that copperheads might jump out of the ivy and azaleas, slink across the step stones and bite my ankles.”

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