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Louis Malle

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Jean-Louis Barrault
Jean-Claude Carrière Film-maker
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J’ai rencontré Jean-Louis Barrault à l’occasion de l’adaptation théâtrale de Harold et Maude qui était d’abord un film écrit par Colin Higgins et avec Colin Higgins nous avons fait l’adaptation théâtrale d’un film, c’est à dire le contraire de ce qu’on fait habituellement. J’ai rencontré Barrault à cette occasion, qui l’a monté avec Madeleine Renaud dans le rôle principal et ensuite nous avons fait un spectacle ensemble Les nuits de Paris d’après Rétif de la Bretonne, un auteur que j’ai toujours beaucoup aimé et que Jean-Louis connaissait.  J’ai gardé un très bon souvenir de cette collaboration avec Jean-Louis Barrault. C’était un homme extrêmement vivant, très animé, très très passionné, et le travail qu’il a fait à la fois comme interprète car il jouait dans Les nuits de Paris et comme metteur en scène m’a toujours frappé par le fait qu’il avait parfaitement compris et dit que le théâtre peut aller beaucoup plus loin que le cinéma, il me disait: fais-moi n’importe quoi, écris-moi n’importe quoi, je te le ferais… Il avait compris la force évocatrice du théâtre et le fait que sur une scène on n’a pas à représenter quelque chose, il faut le donner à voir ce qui est tout à fait différent. C’était vraiment très très agréable. On travaillait à ce moment au théâtre d’Orsay, il y avait installé ses pénates pendant quelques temps avant de finir sa carrière au théâtre du Rond Point, de l’autre côté du théâtre Marigny où il avait commencé… il disait qu’il a fait tout ce travail pour revenir à 100 mètres de son point de départ…Voilà, a part plus, j’ai gardé grand souvenir de lui et il racontait très souvent ses souvenirs cinématographiques, il avait été une grande vedette de cinéma.  En particulier un voyage en Pologne où il était reçu à la gare et de la gare à son hôtel il y avait une double haie de gens qui le recevait en agitant des petits mouchoirs de batiste et en criant Batiste, Batiste qui était le nom de son personnage dans Les Enfants du paradis le film de Marcel Carnet et Prévert.  C’était un mime excellent, merveilleux. Ce qu’il a fait dans Les Enfants du paradis et ce qu’il a refait ensuite sous forme de spectacle était vraiment excellent. Il jouait très bien de son corps, il avait un des corps les plus beaux du XXe siècle, merveilleusement proportionné et entrainé. J’allais souvent chez lui dans sa maison de campagne, dans son appartement à Paris, nous avons parlé de beaucoup de choses ensemble. C’était comme un trésor d’une autre génération qui se communiquait aux plus jeunes.

I met Jean-Louis Barrault as we were adapting Harold and Maud for the theatre from the film written by Colin Higgins, and Colin and I were writing the play from it, which is the opposite of what is usually done. I met Barrault as he staged the play starring Madeleine Renaud, and then we did a show together, Les nuits de Paris by Rétif de la Bretonne, who is an author I've always liked and whom Jean-Louis knew well. I have really good memories of working with Jean-Louis Barrault. He was so alive, so animated, a very passionate man, and in the work that he's done, both as an actor – he was performing in Les nuits de Paris – and as a director, it always struck me that he had always understood that theatre can go so much further than film, and he kept telling me, 'do whatever, write whatever, I'll do it for you'.  He understood the evocative strength of the theatre, and that on stage you don't need to actually show something, you only need to suggest that it's being seen, which is something completely different. It was really, really nice. We were working at the Théâtre d'Orsay, where he was staying for a while before finishing at the Théâtre du Rond Point, which was just next to the Théâtre Marigny where he had started his career, so he kept saying that after all the work he'd done he was back to only 100 metres away from his starting point. He often shared his filming memories, he had been such a film star. Especially on a trip to Poland where he had been picked up at the station and from the station to his hotel people were in two rows along the streets waving little batiste handkerchiefs and shouting, 'Batiste!' as Batiste was the name of his character in Les enfants du paradis the film by Marcel Carnet and Prévert. He was an amazing, marvellous mime.  What he did in Les enfants du paradis he also did in shows afterwards, which was amazing. He was playing his body to the full, he had the most amazing body of the 20th century, fantastically well proportioned and trained. I often went to his country house or his Paris flat, and we would talk about various things. It was like a treasure box passed from an older to a younger generation.

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: Les Enfants du Paradis, Jean-Louis Barrault

Duration: 2 minutes, 46 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2010

Date story went live: 18 October 2010