The Russo Brothers Explain Why Their Biggest Inspiration Is A Classic French Director

The Russo Brothers have championed a new era of blockbusters, but they aren't afraid to pay their respects to the classics. The directors behind the "Avengers" movies may fill their flicks with dazzling special effects, but their biggest influences are in black and white.

Growing up, the Russos had more experience in front of a screen than they did behind a camera. "We grew up film lovers," Anthony Russo explained to Indiewire. They used their favorite films as a blueprint for their earliest projects. "Our biggest influence at the time was the French New Wave," Joe Russo revealed.

The French New Wave was a cinematic movement from the 1960s that included directors like Jean-Luc Godard ("Breathless") and François Truffaut ("The 400 Blows"). Above all the other French New Wave directors from Bresson to Varda, the filmmaking duo named Truffaut as their favorite. Joe cites the director's 1960 cinematic triumph "Shoot the Piano Player" as being particularly impactful.

"Shoot the Piano Player" is Truffaut's stab at the noir genre, a staple of the French New Wave movement. A classical pianist playing in a grimy jazz bar has a set of delinquent brothers. The brothers scam a local gangster and the pianist must help them escape. When the gangster comes looking for them, the pianist must answer for them. This level of heightened suspense permeates through the Russo brothers' work. Despite how different they may appear on the surface, Truffaut's cheeky fingerprints are all over the Russos' films.

Truffaut was the best at balancing humor and tragedy

Truffaut is a favorite of the Russos because he condenses the full scale of cinematic genres and human emotion into one film, just like them. "He was the best at balancing humor and tragedy," Joe told to Wired. The same balance can be found in the Russo brothers' most legendary cinematic moments. For reference, see Tony Stark's scene in "Avengers: Endgame" with the iconic line "I love you three thousand."

The Russo brothers are also heavily influenced by Truffaut's cynical perspective, "this existential point of view that he brought to everything," as Joe puts it (via Indiewire). This might explain why they chose to work under television's resident doomer, Dan Harmon, directing several key episodes of his sitcom, "Community." Working on the ensemble show taught them how to "add emotional complexity" to a comedic plot with lots of moving parts, Joe explained to Den of Geek. Just like Truffaut, the Russo brothers balanced comedy and tragedy in "Community."

The co-directors were also drawn to Truffaut's "penchant for experimentation," Joe added (via Indiewire). This might sound kind of funny coming from the directorial duo behind Marvel's greatest hits. Marvel movies are relatively formulaic, but the Russo brothers laid down a lot of the groundwork for that formula themselves. They thrive in a balance of action and comedy, like the unforgettable paintball episode of "Community." Well-coordinated fight scenes peppered with tongue-in-cheek humor keep audiences coming back to Marvel movies time and time again.