BY 1965 THE FRENCH NEW WAVE WAS old enough to put out a sort of joint manifesto. Being movie directors, the New Wavers naturally produced a document in the form of a portmanteau film: Six shorts about what turned out to be really the only thing these band of outsiders had in common--namely, a love for Paris. Unlike most collections of this sort, the success ratio is rather high. Unevenness remains unavoidable--as always, there's one masterpiece and one flat-out disaster--but the other four are all pretty good, if slight.

Jean Douchet's Saint-Germain-des-Prés is one of those films that condemns free sexuality while slyly providing it at the same time. A young American art student goes to bed with a handsome stranger she meets at a cafe. It turns out he's not all he claims, and of course she's the one who has to pay for it. If you think that's misogynist, well, hey, it was '65. For the real deal, misogynistically speaking, there's Jean Rouch's Gare du Nord, a dull, pretentious, utterly awful piece of claptrap where a shrill wife is first condemned for daydreaming, then for abandoning her fantasies. Things pick up considerably with Jean-Daniel Pollet's Rue Saint-Denis. This is somewhat surprising, since Pollet is the one director I've never heard of aside from his work featured here. His portrait of a weary prostitute and her sad-sack john is the movie's funniest, most charming interlude.

The big names start rolling in with Eric Rohmer's Place de l'...toile, a nice look at routine and coincidence as a fusspot store clerk thinks he's killed a man in an altercation. The unavoidable Jean-Luc Godard contributes Montparnasse-Levallois, about a woman and her two lovers. Truth be told, this short's sexual politics are even nastier than Rouch's, but Godard isn't just a sexist jerk--he's a genius sexist jerk. I figured his would wind up the best; then Claude Chabrol's La Muette started up, and within seconds I knew we had a winner. A lonely little rich boy, two awful parents (played by Chabrol and his wife Stéphane Audran), a sinister stairwell, plenty of noisy meals, and a pair of earplugs all add up to a dissection of bourgeois life that's simultaneously comic and horrifying, like a tickle you get from a snake slithering across your belly.

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