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Friendship with Pierre Etaix
Jean-Claude Carrière Film-maker
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Pierre Etaix was his first assistant and his cartoonist, he was an outstanding cartoonist of Jacques Tati. What brought us together right away was our common taste for the great American burlesque cinema comedy acts: Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, Chaplin, Lloyd and all the others. And our yearning – Pierre had that dream of taking over from Tati and making his own films. He was looking for a partner. He found me, and we started telling each other gags, and he probably thought I was the partner he had been looking for. In 1961, the year I came back from my military service, I was... was going to be 30, we made, wrote and directed two short films, Rupture and Heureux Anniversaire, that we shot with whatever we could find. We did everything, I played several parts in it myself, and so on. And for the second one, Heureux Anniversaire, we got the Oscar for best short. That obviously was the start. We came into the office of producer Paul Claudon, who was a short film producer, and he said, 'We got the Oscar, we got the Oscar'. I was still so ignorant at the time that I asked, 'What's an Oscar?' So they told me, and Paul Claudon was so confident that he helped us make a long film. For that film I left Pierre in charge of the directing – although I was on set all the time – as it was his vocation and I was still more interested in writing, and was even thinking of going onto plays.  I didn't have that yearning to be a film director. I've never had it and never regretted it. Le Soupirant, shot the following year in 1962, won the Louis Delluc prize, and was a really big commercial success everywhere, and that was the start of it. Since then, I haven't, or almost haven't, ever stopped making films, from Le Soupirant to Le Ruban blanc this year. Sometimes with success, sometimes with failures, or partial success only, but I have never stopped making films. I worked with Pierre Etaix for... until... for several years after, then he became a clown, one of his callings. But we often meet up, we've written books together, we've carried out several projects together, we see each other frequently, he lives nearby and we meet up as often as we can. I like him a lot.

 

Pierre Etaix était donc le premier assistant et le… le dessinateur, il était un remarquable dessinateur, de Jacques Tati. Ce qui nous a rapproché tout de suite c’est notre goût commun du grand cinéma burlesque américain: Buster Keaton, Laurel et Hardy, Chaplin, Lloyd, toute la bande. Et notre désir… Pierre avait un grand désir de… lui-même  prendre la suite de Tati et de faire ses propres films…Il cherchait un collaborateur, il m’a trouvé et nous nous sommes mis à nous raconter les gags et sans doute a-t-il pensé que j’étais le collaborateur qu’il lui fallait. Nous avons fait ensemble, écrits et réalisés en 61, l’année même où je revenais du service militaire, j’avais… j’allais avoir 30 ans, nous avons fait deux courts métrages: Rupture et Heureux Anniversaire que nous avons tournés de bric et de broc. On faisait tout, moi même je joue plusieurs rôles dedans etc. Et le second de ces courts métrages Heureux anniversaire a eu l’Oscar à Hollywood du meilleur court métrage. Là évidemment nous étions…  lancés, nous sommes arrivés un jour dans le bureau de producteur Paul Claudon qui était un producteur de courts métrages et nous a dit: «On a l’Oscar, on a l’Oscar!» et j’étais tellement ignorant encore que je lui ai demandé: «C’est quoi l’Oscar?» Alors, on m’a expliqué et Paul Claudon était si confiant en nous qu’il nous a permis de faire un long métrage. Pour ce long métrage j’ai  laissé Pierre Etaix le faire lui-même comme metteur en scène, bien qu’étant tout le temps sur plateau,  parce que c’était sa vocation et que moi j’étais encore attiré par l’écriture, et peut-être un jour par le théâtre. Je n’avais pas la vocation de devenir metteur en scène de cinéma. Je ne l’ai jamais eu et je ne m’en suis jamais repenti.

Le Soupirant que nous avons tourné en ‘62, l’année suivante, a eu le prix Louis Delluc, un très grand succès commercial partout et c’était parti. Depuis je n’ai plus…. pratiquement pas arrêté du Soupirant au Ruban Blanc cette année, de faire des films. Tantôt avec des succès, tantôt avec des échecs ou de demi-succès, mais je n’ai plus jamais arrêté cette activité cinématographique. J’ai travaillé avec Pierre Etaix pendant… jusque… pendant encore plusieurs années, puis il est devenu clown,  ce qu’il était par vocation. Mais nous nous sommes revus souvent, nous avons fait des livres ensemble, nous avons plusieurs projets lui et moi et nous nous voyons très souvent, il habite pas loin d’ici et nous nous voyons aussi souvent que possible. Je l’aime énormément.


 

French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière began his association with films aged 24 when he was selected by Jacques Tati to write for him. This early experience led to further contact with other film-makers, including Luis Buñuel with whom Carrière collaborated for many years. He has written screenplays for films including 'Belle de Jour', 'The Discreet Charms of the Bourgeoisie', 'Tin Drum' and 'Danton'.

Listeners: Andrzej Wolski

Film director and documentary maker, Andrzej Wolski has made around 40 films since 1982 for French television, the BBC, TVP and other TV networks. He specializes in portraits and in historical films. Films that he has directed or written the screenplay for include Kultura, which he co-directed with Agnieszka Holland, and KOR which presents the history of the Worker’s Defence Committee as told by its members. Andrzej Wolski has received many awards for his work, including the UNESCO Grand Prix at the Festival du Film d’Art.

Tags: Rupture, Heureux Anniversaire, Le Soupirant, Le Ruban Blanc, Academy Award, Oscar, Louis Delluc Prize, Pierre Etaix, Paul Claudon

Duration: 2 minutes, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2010

Date story went live: 26 July 2010