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Working with Peter Brook


Meeting Peter Brook
Jean-Claude Carrière Film-maker
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J’ai connu Peter Brook assez tôt, j’ai connu Peter Brook en ’64 ou 5 quand j’étais avec Micheline Rozan dont j’ai déjà beaucoup parlé et qui est une amie très proche. Elle avait un petit cercle de gens dont elle s’occupait, elle m’a invité un jour à dîner, j’étais très jeune et très inconnu et je me suis retrouvé avec Maurice Béjart, Orson Welles et Peter Brook… à table, un soir. J’étais évidement très impressionné et avec Peter Brook nous avons beaucoup sympathisé. Dès cette époque là il m’a demandé si ça m’intéresserait de travailler sur un scenario avec lui pour en faire un film, ce que nous avons fait. Il s’agissait de Les belles endormies de Kawabata, le grand écrivain japonais et nous avons fait un scenario pour nous rendre compte à la fin que les droits n’étaient pas libres et que le film avait été déjà fait par un japonais. Cela ça peut arriver. Enfin nous nous connaissions, nous n’étions pas vraiment amis. Ensuite j’ai fait en ’68 ma première pièce L’aide-mémoire qui a été un très grand succès, et l’année suivante… non… deux ans après  une seconde pièce qui s’appelait Le Client qui était un très grand échec. Donc je me trouvais, en ce qui concerne le théâtre, deux pièces que j’aimais l’une comme l’autre, une qui a très bien marché et l’autre pas du tout. Incertain, est-ce que je vais continuer à faire du théâtre ou pas? A ce moment là j’apprend que Peter Brook, il sortait d’un immense succès avec Un songe d’une nuit d’été, sa mise en scène de Shakespeare qu’il a fait partout dans le monde et que Peter Brook qui était l’homme de théâtre le plus célèbre au monde qui pouvait avoir le Met de New York, Covent Garden, ce qu’il voulait, venait de trouver à Paris un petit endroit qui n’était même pas un théâtre, une salle de répétition où il travaillait avec des acteurs inconnus, venus du monde entier, à des choses que personne ne comprenait et personne n’y avait accès. Alors j’appelle Micheline Rozan et je dis: «Mais alors que-ce qu’il fait Peter?» Et elle me dit: «Je n’en sais rien – un peu agacée – je n’en sais rien, il travaille avec des bambous et des boites en carton et des gens que personne ne connaît, venus du Japon, d’Afrique…» Voila. Bon moi… Ca m’intéressait beaucoup, c’était un homme qui avait 50 ans et qui tout à coup semblait remettre en question toute son expérience théâtrale vraiment.

I met Peter Brook quite early on, I met him in '64 or '65, when I was with Micheline Rozan; I have already spoken about her, she was a close friend. She had a small circle of people she was involved with, and she invited me to dinner one day. I was very young and completely unknown, and I found myself with Maurice Béjart, Orson Welles and Peter Brook around the table one evening.  I was obviously very impressed, and Peter Brook and I had much in common. Already at that time he asked me if I was interested in working with him on a screenplay, which we did. It was the House of the Sleeping Beauties by Kawabata, that great Japanese writer, and we wrote the screenplay and then realised that the rights to it weren't available and that a film had been made by a Japanese guy. It can happen. So we already knew each other but we weren't really friends. Then I did my first play in '68, L'aide-Mémoire, which was very successful, and the following year, no, two years later, my second play The Client was a setback. So, regarding theatre, I had two plays I liked very much, one successful and the other not successful all. I was undecided and wondering whether to continue with theatre or not. At that time, I found out that Peter Brook, who had a huge success with Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, which he took all over the world – and Peter Brook was the most famous person in theatre, he could have had the Met in New York, Covent Garden, whatever he wanted – had come to find a small theatre in Paris, a room that actually was not even a theatre, some sort of rehearsal room where he was working with unknown actors from all over the world, doing things no one understood and which no one could come in and see. So I call Micheline Rozan and I ask her what is he doing. And she says, a bit annoyed, 'I don't know, he works with bamboo and cardboard boxes and people no one's ever heard of, people from Japan, Africa'. But I... I was interested by all that, he was a man who was 50 years old, and who suddenly seemed to be really questioning all of his theatrical experience.

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: Paris, House of the Sleeping Beauties, Peter Brook, Micheline Rozan

Duration: 2 minutes, 32 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2010

Date story went live: 18 October 2010