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Work begins on 'The Diary of a Chambermaid'

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Meeting Buñuel
Jean-Claude Carrière Film-maker
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La rencontre avec Luis Buñuel se passe très peu temps après Le Soupirant, elle se passe en 1963, Le Soupirant venait de sortir, avait  un grand succès. Et… une femme qui s’appelle Micheline Rozan, toujours vivante, qui était la directrice des Bouffe du Nord et qui à l’époque s’occupait de moi, me dirigeait, me guidait, apprend que Louis Buñuel, le grand Buñuel envisageait de faire un film en France, Le Journal d’une femme de chambre d’après Octave Mirbeau avec Jeanne Moreau dans le rôle et Micheline Rozan était l’agent de Jeanne Moreau, et qu’il cherchait un scénariste.   Il cherchait un scénariste français, pouvant écrire en français,  et,  connaissant la province française. C’étaient des conditions qu’il posait. Alors Micheline Rozan m’a envoyé voir le producteur Serge Silberman lequel m’a envoyé à Cannes rencontrer Buñuel pour un déjeuner. Pendant le festival de Cannes ‘63… au mois de mai donc. J’arrivais avec le succès du Soupirant et j’avais fait un autre film entre temps, un documentaire sur la vie sexuelle des animaux qui s’appelait Bestiaire d'amour…  j’avais écrit le texte d’après un livre d’un grand biologiste français qui s’appelait Jean Rostand, un de fils d’Edmund Rostand, de qui plus tard je devrais adapter  le Cyrano de Bergerac… donc ce monde est tout petit. Donc je vais voir Buñuel avec ce seul bagage… à Cannes et la première question qu’il me pose n’a rien avoir avec le cinéma. Il m’accueille à l’heure précise dans un restaurant, nous sommes seuls dans un hôtel un peu en dehors de Cannes et il me regarde de son œil très attentif qui voyait tout et il me pose cette question fondamentale qui était une question dont j’ai bien senti tout de suite qu’elle n’était pas une question mondaine ou superficielle, il me dit: «Est-ce que vous buvez du vin?» Je lui ai dit: «Oui, non seulement je bois du vin mais… je suis d’une famille de petit vignerons», ce qui était vrai, alors son visage s’est éclairci, il a commandé deux bouteilles de vin… et ça a brisé quelque chose entre nous, ça a établi… plus tard il m’a dit: «Si au moins vous n’aviez aucun talent on aurait pu parler de vin». Alors, nous avons commencé de parler de choses et d’autres et il se trouvait que le film que j’avais fait sur les animaux l’intéressait parce que Buñuel, avait comme formation l’entomologie. C’était ce qu’il avait choisi après son baccalauréat ou équivalent en Espagne quand il était étudiant. L’étude des insectes, ça l’intéresserait… ça le  passionnait toute sa vie. Il a été capable de citer le noms de tous les insectes en latin, il était très calé là-dessus donc le fait que j’ai fait un film documentaire sur les animaux le passionnait et d’autre part que j’ai fait un film et même plusieurs, si on compte les courts métrages, dans la tradition du cinéma burlesque américain, ça aussi l’intéressait beaucoup. Il ne faut pas oublier que dans le premier numéro de La Révolution Surréaliste qui a été la grande revue de surréalistes et on peut penser que tous les documents étaient très, très bien choisis, il y a une photo de Buster Keaton.

I met Luis Buñuel shortly after Le Soupirant in 1963. The film was quite successful. And Micheline Rozan, who is still alive, was the manager of the Bouffes du Nord, she was taking care of me, guiding me. She found out that Buñuel wanted to make a film in France, The Diary of a Chambermaid adapted from the book by Octave Mirbeau, starring Jeanne Moreau. Micheline Rozan was her agent, and she knew he was looking for a screenwriter. He was looking for a French screenwriter, able to write in French and who would know the real France. That was what he requested. So Micheline Rozan sent me to see producer Serge Silberman, who sent me to Cannes to meet Buñuel for lunch. That was during the Cannes Film Festival, May '63. I arrived, still glowing with the success of Le Soupirant, and had also made another film, a documentary about the sex life of animals called Bestiaire d'Amour. I had written the text using a book by a great French biologist called Jean Rostand, son of Edmund Rostand who wrote Cyrano de Bergerac, which I would adapt much later. So it is a small world. So here I go, to meet up with Buñuel, with those films in Cannes, and the first question he asks has got nothing to do with films. We meet up, at an appointed time, in a restaurant, we are by ourselves, in a hotel just outside of Cannes, and he observes me with those eyes that could see everything. And he asks me this fundamental question which I was well aware wasn't an everyday or a superficial question. He asks, 'Do you drink wine?' So I told him, 'Yes, I not only drink it but I come from a family of wine makers', which was true. So his face lit up and he ordered two bottles and that broke the ice, it established something between us. Later he told me that if I'd had no talent we could at least have spoken about wine. So we started talking about lots of things, and it just so happened that the documentary about the animals was of special interest to him, because Buñuel had studied entomology. That was what he had chosen after school, when he went to university. He was interested in entomology. He was passionate about it his entire life. He was able to cite the names of every insect in Latin, he was extremely good at it, so he found interesting the fact that I had made that film, and then he also was interested in the fact that the film, and the shorts as well, were in the slapstick genre. We must not forget that the first Revolution Surrealiste, which was the great surreal magazine so we can assume that all the documents were very carefully selected, bore a picture of Buster Keaton.

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: The Diary of a Chambermaid, Le Soupirant, Bestiaire d'Amour, Cyrnao de Bergerac, Luis Buñuel

Duration: 3 minutes, 13 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2010

Date story went live: 26 July 2010