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Claude Berri and François Truffaut "friends and colleagues"
The April 13, 1970 issue of the French weekly magazine L'Express published a review of Claude Berri's Le Pistonée written by François Truffaut.The lead-in for that review details that Truffaut had asked the magazine for a chance to write something about the film and it describes Truffaut and Berri as "friends and colleagues". In the mid 1960s, Truffaut had devoted part of his time to helping young filmmakers raise money to make their films and he had taken Berri on as his main assistant in this enterprise. This began a close friendship that would only end with Truffaut's death. A reading of Berri's memoir Autoportrait published in 2003 leaves one to realize that some 20 years later Berri was still in mourning. In early 1971, when upon its release Le Cinéma De Papa was severely criticized by the Paris critical establishment, including the dean of French film critics at the time Le Monde's Jean De Baroncelli and the new chief critic,Gilles Jacob, at L'Express, Truffaut went to Pariscope and penned an article defending the film. In the mid 1970s, Truffaut published a collection of his film reviews entitled The Films in My Life and in a chapter labeled "My Friends in the New Wave", he reprinted that review. I believe that it is fitting and necessary that I file that review as it was translated by Leonard Mayhew for the English edition of Truffaut's book
"After Le Vieil Homme et L'Infant, which I adored, Le Cinema De Papa is probably Claude Berri's best film. If its title gives the impression that it is a film about films, the truth is that Le Cinema is really concerned with the most basic elements of life itself, precisely those things that current films mostly avoid: the struggle to earn a living, money problems, daily bread, the search for a trade, the birth of a vocation, the alternation of good and bad luck. "The humanity of Charlie Chaplin's films is made of the same stuff: the necessity of three meals a day, to find work, to be happy in love. These are the best themes, the most simple and universal. Curiously, to the degree that cinema becomes more intellectual, they are the most ignored. Berri's films never whine; his characters never accuse anyone else of being to blame for their troubles; they believe in chance and luck, but even more in energy. I find this energy in Berri himself, in his work, in his personality, in his life. Cinema requires poetry, sensitivity, intelligence, and whatever, but even more imperatively it needs vitality. "Berri isn't one of those directors who are in love with cinema; he doesn't refer to other films but to life itself. He draws from the source. Like Marcel Pagnol and Sacha Guitry, who are seriously underestimated in their time, Claude Berri first of all has stories to tell. He feels them so strongly that he quite naturally invents and discovers the best forms to communicate them. When he told me about his plans to shoot Le Cinema De Papa, I told him to have someone screen Le Roman d'UN Tricheur and Le Schpountz for him. "But since he prefers good meals and conversations with friends, he never took the time and he was right, because his storyteller's instinct led him to the best solution of the problems the film posed. "I want to draw your attention to an especially original aspect of Le Cinema De Papa. We know by definition artists are, if not antisocial, generally asocial. Before they criticize society at large, they have already been at odds with their families who did not understand them, or who oppressed them. Their vocation is often born of a wound. In Le Cinema De Papa, and in all of Berri's films, it is just the opposite; the basis of his credo could be "My family I love you". When you come out of this movie, you are sure that Claude Berri is not scared in the way of artists who are cut off from their families. Here is a filmmaker who loves his parents. It makes his film even more unusual." In his 2003 memoir, Berri, on different occasions quotes large chunks of this review. On page 204 of that memoir, Berri wrote, "The last time I telephoned François to ask him if I could come and visit him, he answered me, 'But you know well, my dear Claude, that it would still be a pleasure to see you before croaking'. He pressed me to re-release Lubitsch's films, to read Bazin's articles on Pagnol, encouraging me to film Jean De Florette. He wanted me to arrange a private screening of Amadeus for him." Unfortunately, while Berri did set up the private screening of Amadeus, Truffaut was not physically up to attending and he died soon after. On page 284, Berri wrote, "21 October, the same year , the death of François Truffaut. At his interment, in the cemetery in Clichy, all those who had loved the man who loved women were there crying."
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