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A common religious background


Sharing a Mediterranean culture with Buñuel
Jean-Claude Carrière Film-maker
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We shared that same culture of wine, but even more than that, there was the Mediterranean culture, something very Latin - Catholicism - we knew all things Catholic quite well, in particular Latin. When I went to Spain for the first time, I had one of those old English cars, and it broke down on the road so I had to get it repaired in a Spanish village, and I didn't know any Spanish at all. Then, after that, I managed to make it back on the road to Madrid and there were three hitch-hikers on the road. So I took them, and they were three seminarians about to be ordained priests, and they didn't speak any French and I couldn't speak any Spanish. So we spoke Latin in the car, and once I reached Madrid I told Buñuel about it and he said, 'But that is wonderful, you, arriving here, with three seminarians speaking Latin', and yes, that's how it was. Probably not very good Latin, but still we understood each other. And later, as we were shooting The Milky Way, he gave me a part – he had already given me the part of a priest in The Diary of a Chambermaid – he gave me the part of a heretic bishop in The Milky Way, the Bishop of Avila, and we had written all the scenes in Latin, so I had to play them in Latin. So one day, someone asked, 'But why did you offer that part to Jean-Claude Carrière?' and he answered, 'Because it is increasingly difficult to find actors who can speak Latin correctly'.

En plus du vin qui nous rapprochait, nous étions tous les deux de la culture du vin, il y avait aussi la méditerranée, une espèce de latinité, d’études catholiques, le milieu catholique, donc nous connaissions nos classiques catholiques… en particulier le latin. Quand je suis allé en Espagne la première fois, j’avais une vieille voiture anglaise qui s’est cassée en cours de route donc j’ai dû la faire réparer dans un village espagnol, je ne parlais pas un mot d’espagnol et ensuite tant bien que mal je suis arrivé à Madrid et en cours de route il y avait trois jeunes gens qui faisaient de l’autostop. Je les ai pris et c’étaient trois séminaristes espagnol qui allaient être des prêtres et ils ne parlaient pas français et moi pas l’espagnol. Et nous avons parlé latin, nous avons parlé latin,  et j’ai raconté ça à Buñuel en arrivant à Madrid, et il me dit: «Mais c’est merveilleux, vous arrivez ici avec trois séminaristes qui parlent latin». Oui… c’était le cas, en effet… un latin de cuisine sans doute, mais enfin nous nous sommes compris. Et plus tard… quand nous avons fait La voie lactée… et il m’a confié le rôle, il m’avait déjà confié un rôle de prêtre dans Le Journal d’une femme de chambre, il m’a confié le rôle d’un évêque, hérétique, dans La voie lactée, l’évêque d’Avila et… c’était un rôle où nous avons écrit les scènes  en latin et je devais donc jouer en latin. Alors quelqu’un l’a demandé un jour: «Mais pourquoi vous avez proposé le rôle à Jean-Claude Carrière?» Et il a répondu: «Parce que il est de plus en plus difficile de trouver des acteurs parlant correctement latin».

French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière (1931-2021) 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 wrote 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 Milky Way, The Diary of a Chambermaid, Madrid, Luis Buñuel

Duration: 1 minute, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2010

Date story went live: 27 July 2010