My Gleanings

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Some ideas from Jean Aurenche.

Jean Aurenche is well-known for being Francois Truffaut's target in the article “A Certain Tendency of French Cinema”. He also collaborated with the director Bertrand Tavernier when Tavernier was starting out as a director. Tavernier told the “Guardian” newspaper in 2002,

“By attacking Aurenche, he attacked the person who was closest to the new wave - the person who was ready to experiment and who was the most open. He was the one who told me: get rid of the plot; we must write only for our pleasure. He was the contrary to the technician Truffaut described. He was a kind of a poet, sometimes misfiring, sometimes brilliant.",11710,817147,00.html

These are some translation that I made from Aurenche’s memoir “La Suite à l’Écran” (The Rest Is on the Screen).

On André Gide and the film version of his novella "La Symphonie pastorale" (pages 132-133)

“Gide had himself began to draw an adaptation of it, ["La Symphonie pastorale"] at the request of the producer Jacques Gide who was his cousin. On reading the first pages of his screenplay, the producers expressed disappointment....They called on Bost and me never showing us Gide’s script and I learned later that Gide, displeased by this decision, opted to bow out and he withdrew.
When Gide read our manuscript he did not care for it at all and made us aware of that, without however intervening to have changes made. The film had a great success and, I don’t know if he reappraised his opinion but, in any case, he had the kindness to tell us that he was very happy for our success and that he might possibly have been to harsh with regard to our work.
Time passed. Twenty years later - long after Gide’s death - his fifty page treatment came into my hands. In point of fact the story of "La Symphonie pastorale" had not much interested Bost and me. Nevertheless, we endeavored to be faithful to it. Gide who was a very intelligent man had not tried to conform to his book and, in his adaptation, he went so far as to attempt a critique of his novel. His screenplay was much more relaxed and much more interesting than ours, freer and more entertaining. I regret that he was not allowed to finish it.
Whatever, "La Symphonie pastorale", was not a good film but it was an enormous success. It won all kinds of awards, including the Palme D’Or at Cannes....Today, I find the film pompous. It seems to me that this is due to the style of its director, Jean Delannoy, who however was in life anything but self-important. But often pomp impresses people to the point of beguiling them.”

On Jean Delannoy (page 181-182)

“Delannoy truly had the knack of spoiling a good story..... All our ideas (and his) are there but withered and devitalized. You never knew what to do with Delannoy who, however, during the writing was more intelligent, more creative than Rene Clement. Turn the cameras and it all fled him.”

On “Notre Dame de Paris” (“The Hunchback of Notre Dame”) (1956)

“Delannoy fiddled with the screenplay and did a bad job of it.”

On Julien Duvivier (page 183)

“A disagreeable memory [“Femme et le pantin“] not only because the result was horrible and stupid but because more than that Duvivier was second-rate, aggressive, thickheaded and not very intelligent.”

On Charles Spaak (page 233)

“I was never impressed by [Charles] Spaak whom I found to be too ponderous, too stilted except when he wrote for Renoir or Gremillon which tends to prove that the real creator of a film is the director. And the scriptwriter is the fifth wheel on the carriage.”

On Monte Hellman’s “Two-lane Blacktop” (page 233)

“A fantastic film... About car-racers who compete in illegal and secret drag-racing in back-country America. On first view, everything about them was repulsive to me. By the end of the film, I had come to know them. I felt I was sharing their lives.”

On not becoming a director himself (page 156)

“It was because of the cinematographer’s that I finally gave up on the idea of becoming a director. The stars did not sleep with the directors, but with the cinematographer’s. They made me too afraid. They could sweep away one of your ideas with a categorical, “That’s impossible”. Even [Autant]-Lara feared a cinematographer like Michel Kleber. That’s all changed now. I have often been on Tavernier’s set. He does not fear Pierre-William Glenn, and Glenn does not fear him. They amuse and stimulate each other, while before what happened, happened in an unbearable atmosphere...except with [Christian] Matras and [Armand] Thirard...Jean Renoir revolted against this dictatorship without creating a counter-dictatorship. ”

On René Clément (page 231)

“The director must feel that he is independent...Patricia Highsmith said that the only good film drawn from one of her novels was ‘Plein Soleil‘. because Clément and Gegauff had completely re-examined her novel. In Gérard Philipe’s analysis, Clément “directed against the screenplay and he cut the film against the direction.”

On Claude Autant-Lara

(page 91)
“That said, it should be known that [Autant]-Lara loathed Bost and passed up no opportunity to denigrate him. He judged him too austere, too Protestant, too puritan, a lot of bull, right? That exasperated Pierre who when he was drunk could become violent and swear like a trooper. He rewrote the dialogue for ‘La Jument Verte’ to get vengeance on Lara who, on reading it, turned red. He did not know where to start. I never saw a man so shocked.”

“The real problems though were between Lara and Jeanson. Jeanson was writing the dialogue for ‘Marguerite de la nuit’ and Lara who did not like his work at all, did not dare to tell him. More exactly, he had attempted telling him, but had gotten nowhere. He gave up telling himself, “Let him work”. Only, at night, the unhappy Ghislaine [Autant-Lara’s wife], according to an expression dear to Lara, “rolled up her sleeves” and rewrote the dialogue.”

From Jean Aurenche “La Suite à l’Écran” (“The Rest Is On The Screen”).

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