My Gleanings

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Julien Duvivier and François Truffaut

In the spring of 1956, François Truffaut was contacted by Julien Duvivier who proposed that they collaborate on a film. They met in May at Cannes and discussed doing a project together called Grand Amour. As it happened, Duvivier was busy at that time making the film L’Homme à l’Impermeable. In August of that year, Duvivier wrote this letter to Truffaut: “Last night I had a strange dream. You and I were at Le Havre. We were about to embark for America on a huge ocean liner whose name I saw very clearly: "L’Atlantique"….I was inviting you on a trip!!! But when it was time to board, I noticed that I hadn’t booked your passage….You flew into a mad rage, and told me a few plain truths. So I went to see the chief purser, who remembered that I had crossed in 1948 and gave me a cabin. Then all of a sudden we were at sea and I was called to the telephone….I’ll never know who was calling me because at that point I woke up….I would like to have you as a collaborator, if you still desire as well. Let me know what you have been up to recently and what your plans are. Please see me as a friend who thinks highly of you and likes you.”
(Translated by Catherine Temerson and from “Truffaut” by Antoine de Baecque and Serge Toubiana)
This “friend who thought highly of” him was a member of the jury at Cannes in 1959 that awarded Francois Truffaut the award for best direction for Les Quatre Cents Coups (The Four Hundred Blows). In fact, he was the senior director sitting on that jury.
Other film directors on the jury at Cannes in 1958:
Antoni Bohdziewicz (Poland)Michael Cacoyannis (Greece)Sergei Vasilyev (USSR)
Gene Kelly (USA) obviously best known as a dancer but also some directing.
Marcel Achard, the President of that jury, would mostly be known as a playwright and then as a screenwriter but he had directed the film versions of two of his plays and also co-directed two other films.In 1956, Truffaut had famously trashed the film Le Pays, d'où Je Vien which Achard had co-written. ( see Marcel Carné’s memoirs, Ma vie à belle dents for more info there)
The vintage newsreel from the 1959 Cannes festival included with the special features on the Criterion DVD of Les Quatre Cents Coups (The Four Hundred Blows) reveals a sequence at its finish - Jean-Pierre Leaud and Jean Cocteau in the theater for the Cannes showing of the film, cut to Albert Rémy, cut to a slightly overlit shot shot of a prosperous looking middle-aged man over which the narrator tells the audience that even the jury was impressed. That last shot was of Julien Duvivier.

from The Films in My Life by François Truffaut ; translated by Leonard Mayhew. New York : Simon and Schuster, Touchstone Edition 1985, c1978
“When I met Julien Duvivier a little while before his death, and after I had shot my first film, I tried to get him to admit - he was always complaining - that he had had a fine career, varied and full, and that all things considered he had achieved great success and ought to be contented. ‘Sure, I would feel happy ...if there hadn’t been any reviews.’” (page12)

“When I was in Los Angeles in 1974, a great Hollywood actress told me that she would give anything to have the music of “Carnet de Bal” on a cassette. I wish I could have told Duvivier this, while he was still alive.” (page13)

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