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The 1940 defeat and the communist uncle

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The boss's brother
Raoul Coutard Film-maker
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So I needed to start somewhere, I found a job that got me in at the bottom to do amateur work, in a company that did amateur work. So that was during the war. In fact, I witnessed something absolutely extraordinary because the guy that ran the company was a guy that had multiple sclerosis, which he had apparently caught, he got a pension for it, after having been vaccinated against- the vaccines that were done in the army. But he hadn't had a- At the time, before getting vaccinated, they looked to see if you had albumin, and they hadn't done the check on him, and he had some, so they concluded that it was the vaccine that gave him multiple sclerosis, so the army had given him a- So he really struggled to move, etc., he was very sick. And I witnessed something extraordinary because since it was during the occupation, and his brother came to see him, and he would wear a yellow star when he came into the store, and made him believe that he was Jewish. And obviously when he went out he would take off his star because he wasn't Jewish. And the other one was really worried by it and in the end it hurried his death. And the other one took his place afterwards.

[BC] He was doing it on purpose?

Yes yes.

[BC] It's an incredible story!

Yes, it's an incredible story.

[BC] So- How old were you when you witnessed that?

Oh! I was 16.

[BC] It must have concerned you, as we say?

Yes it concerned me but I would ask him why, because I had seen him take the star off, I would say- but don't you run the risk of getting caught by the Germans? He would say - No, no, no, I take the risk, etc.

Bon donc il fallait que je commence, j'ai trouvé un boulot qui rentrait de plein-pied pour faire des travaux d'amateur, dans une boîte qui faisait des travaux d'amateur. Bon alors là, ça se trouvait pendant la guerre. J'ai assisté d'ailleurs à une chose absolument extraordinaire parce que le gars qui était le patron de cette boîte était un type qui avait une sclérose en plaque qu'il avait attrapée paraît-il, il avait une pension pour ça, après avoir été vacciné contre les- Les vaccins qu'on se faisait dans l'armée. Mais on ne lui avait pas fait de- A l'époque avant d'être vacciné, on cherchait de voir si on avait de l'albumine, et lui on ne lui avait pas fait, et il en avait, on en a donc déduit que c'était cette vaccination qui lui avait filé la sclérose en plaque, donc l'armée lui avait filé une- Donc il avait beaucoup de mal à se bouger, etc., il était très malade. Et j'ai assisté à un truc assez étonnant parce que comme c'était pendant l'occupation, et son frère est venu le voir, alors il se mettait une étoile de juif quand il rentrait dans le magasin, et il lui a fait croire qu'il était juif. Et naturellement quand il ressortait l'autre il enlevait son étoile puisqu'il n'était pas juif. Et l'autre il était taraudé par ce truc-là et finalement ça a hâté sa mort. Et l'autre après il a pris sa place. Il le faisait exprès ? Oui oui. C'est une histoire inouïe ça ! Oui, c'est une histoire inouïe. Toi, tu avais quel âge quand tu assistais à ça ? Oh ! J' avais 16 ans. Ça a dû quand même comme on dit t'interpeller ? Oui ça m'a interpellé mais je lui demandais comment ça se faisait, parce que je l'avais vu enlever son étoile, je disais- Mais vous ne risquez pas de vous faire gauler par les Allemands ? Il disait- non non non, je prends le risque, etc.

French cinematographer, Raoul Coutard (1924-2016) was twice nominated for the César Award for best cinematography which he won in 1978 for 'Le Crabe-tambour'. He made over 75 films and documentaries, including 'À Bout de Souffle', Le Mépris' and 'Band à Part'. He was the most acclaimed French cinematographer of his generation and one of the key figures of the New Wave.

Listeners: Bernard Cohn

Benard Cohn is a French filmmaker and writer, who has directed five films as well as numerous documentaries and television series. As an assistant director, he worked with many important filmmakers, including Luis Buñuel, François Jacob, Otto Preminger and Woody Allen. He was a founding member of the Ciné-Qua-Non cinema club and has acted as editor and translator for various publications on the world of cinema.

Bernard Cohn est un réalisateur et écrivain français, ayant réalisé cinq film ainsi que de nombreux reportages et séries télévisées. En tant qu'assistant réalisateur, il a travaillé avec plusieurs grands cinéastes, notamment Luis Buñuel, François Truffaut, Otto Preminger et Woody Allen. Il fut membre fondateur du ciné-club Ciné-Qua-Non et a participé à la rédaction et traduction en anglais, de plusieurs ouvrages sur le cinéma.

Duration: 1 minute, 47 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008