Claude Berri - Director

Nationality: French. Born: Claude Berel Langmann in Paris, 1 July 1934. Family: Married Anne-Marie Rassam, 1967 (divorced); two sons: Julien and Thomas; brother of writer/editor/production designer Arlette Langmann. Career: Dropped out of school and worked with his parents as a furrier, 1949; began his career as an actor, appearing in roles on stage and screen, early 1950s; formed Renn Productions, his own production company, 1963; formed AMLF-Paris, a distribution company, early 1970s; became founding president of the French Union of Producers-Directors. Awards: Best Live Action Short Subject Academy Award, for Le Poulet , 1965; Berlin International Film Festival C.I.D.A.L.C. Ghandi Award, Berlin International Film Festival Interfilm Award, for Le Vieil homme et l'enfant , 1967; Best Adapted Screenplay British Academy Award, Best Film British Academy Award, for Jean de Florette , 1986. Address: Renn Productions, 10 rue Lincoln, 75008 Paris, France.

Films as Director:


Le Poulet ( The Chicken ) (short) (+ pr, sc, ro); Les Baisers ( Kisses ) (episode)


La Chance et l'amour ( Luck and Love ) (episode)


Le Vieil homme et l'enfant ( The Two of Us, Claude, The Old Man and the Boy ) (+ co-sc)


Mazel Tov ou le mariage ( Marry Me! Marry Me! ) (+ pr, sc, ro)


Le Pistonne ( The Man with Connections ); Le Cinema du papa ( Papa's Movies ) (+ ro)


Le Sex Shop (+ sc, ro)


Le Male du siecle ( Male of the Century ) (+ ro)


La Premiere fois ( The First Time ) (+ sc)


Un moment d'egarement ( In a Wild Moment, One Wild Moment, A Summer Affair )


A nous deux ( An Adventure for Two )


Je vous aime ( I Love You All ) (+ sc)


Le Maitre d'ecole ( The School Master )


Tchao, pantin! (+ sc)


Jean de Florette (+ co-sc); Manon des sources ( Manon of the Spring ) (+ sc)


Uranus (+ co-sc)


Germinal (+ pr, co-sc)


Lucie Aubrac (+ sc)


La Debandade (+ co-sc, ro)

Other Films:


Le Bon Dieu sans confession (Autant-Lara) (ro)


Le Ble en herbe (Autant-Lara) (ro)


Jeune homme a l'inauguration ( French Cancan, Only the French Can ) (Renoir) (ro)


J'irai cracher sur vos tombes ( I Spit on Your Grave ) (Gast) (ro)


Les Bonnes femmes ( The Girls ) (Chabrol) (ro); La Verite ( The Truth ) (Clouzot) (ro)


La Bride sur le cou ( Only for Love, Please Not Now !) (Aurel, Trop, Vadim) (ro); Janine (Pialat—for TV) (sc)


Les Sept peches capitaux ( The Seven Capital Sins, The Seven Deadly Sins ) (de Broca, Chabrol, Demy, Dhomme, Godard, Molinaro, Vadim) (ro)


Behold a Pale Horse (Zinnemann) (ro)


La Ligne de demarcation ( Line of Demarcation ) (Chabrol) (ro)


L'Enfance nue ( Me, Naked Childhood ) (Pialat) (co-pr)


Tess (Polanski) (co-pr)


Inspecteur la Bavure (Zidi) (pr)


Deux heures moins le quart avant Jesus-Christ (Yanne) (co-pr) 1983 L'Africain ( The African ) (de Broca) (pr); Banzai (Zidi) (pr); L'Homme blesse (Chereau) (ro)


Les Enrages (Glenn) (co-pr)


Hotel de France (Chereau) (pr); Sous le soleil de Satan ( Under the Sun of Satan ) (Pialat) (ro)


L'Ours ( The Bear ) (Annaud) (pr); Trois places pour le 26 (Demy) (pr); A gauche en sortant de l'ascenseur ( The Door on the Left as You Leave the Elevator ) (Molinaro) (exec pr)


La Petite voleuse ( The Little Thief ) (Miller) (co-pr); Valmont (Forman) (exec pr)


Stan the Flasher (Gainsbourg) (ro)


L'Amant ( The Lover ) (Annaud) (co-pr)


La Reine Margot ( Queen Margot ) (Chereau) (pr); La Separation ( The Separation ) (Vincent) (pr); La Machine ( The Machine ) (Dupeyron) (ro)


Gazon Maudit ( French Twist ) (Balasko) (exec pr); Les Trois freres (Bourdon, Campan) (co-pr, ro)


Der Unhold ( The Ogre ) (Schlondorff) (co-exec pr); Billard a l'etage (Marboeuf—for TV) (exec pr)


Didier (Chabat) (pr); Arlette (Zidi) (pr); Le Pari (Bourdon, Campan) (pr)


Mookie (Palud) (assoc pr); Un grand cri d'amour (Balasko) (ro)


Asterix et Obelix contre Cesar ( Asterix and Obelix Take on Caesar ) (Zidi) (pr); Mauvaise passe ( The Escort, The Wrong Blonde ) (Blanc) (pr)


By BERRI: books—

Le Vieil homme et l'enfant , Paris, 1967.

Marry Me! Marry Me! , New York, 1969

Le Pistonne , Paris, 1970.

By BERRI: articles—

"Claude Berri, of AMLF, to U.S. for Film Sales Talks," interview with Gene Moskowitz, in Variety (New York), 8 March 1978.

"French Filmmaker Claude Berri Now Involved in All Phases of Industry," interview with John Cocchi, in Box Office (New York), 24 April 1978.

" Je vous aime ," interview, in Film en Televisie (Brussels), March 1981. Berri, Claude, "L'ami difinitif," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), December 1984.

Berri, Claude, "Un souvenir de Tchecosiovaquie," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), March 1985.

"Claude Berri," interview with V. Ostria, in Cinematographe (Paris), July/August 1986.

Interview with P. Merigeau, in Revue du Cinema (Paris), September 1986.

"France's Pagnol and Pagnol's France Bask Again in Nostalgic Warmth," interview with R. Bernstein, in New York Times , 7 December 1986.

"France's Savory Tale of Fate," interview with R. Bernstein, in New York Times , 21 June 1987.

"Claude Berri," interview with M. Buruiana, in SĂ©quences (Quebec), June 1991.

"Vous n'en avez pas marre, Claude Berri?," interview with Alain Kruger, Eric Libiot, in Premiere (Paris), March 1997.

On BERRI: articles—

"Directing Not Enough for Berri, Who Produces, Co-Prods. & Acts," in Variety (New York), 2 October 1974.

Delvaud, G., "Claude Berri ou l'art de ne pas bouger," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), January 1980.

Cornand, A., "Le martre d'ecole," in Revue du Cinema (Paris), December 1981.

Bergala, A. and others, "La Porte etroite," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1985.

"Berri Taps Rich Pagnol Lode, Rolls $9,500,000 Twin Projects," in Variety (New York), 1 May 1985.

Gonzales, J.G., "Claude Berri: un director que finalmente encuentra su estilo," in Images (Puerto Rico), no. 2, 1987.

Jorholt, E., "Kampen om vandet," in Kosmorama (Copenhagen), Winter 1987.

"It's the Berris Behind Those Two Pagnol Smashes," in Variety , 18 February 1987.

Chase, D., "Close-Ups: Profiles of Production People," in Millimeter (Cleveland, Ohio), July 1987.

Buckley, M., "Claude Berri," in Films in Review (New York), January 1988.

Current Biography (New York), 1989.

Solman, G., "Claude Berri," in Millimeter (Cleveland, Ohio), January 1990.

Zimmer, J., " Uranus ," in Revue du Cinema (Paris), January 1991.

Riding, A., "A Fable of Guilt and Innocence from 'Le Big Boss'," in New York Times , 18 August 1991.

Granger, R., "Berri's Uranus from Prestige, Probes Post-War French guilt," in Film Journal (New York), October/November 1991.

Haden-Guest, A., "Paris Clout," in Vanity Fair (New York), January 1992.

Morice, P., "L'Europe a la question," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1992.

Williams, M., "Berri Looks to Mine Gold with Germinal ," in Variety (New York), 4 October 1993.

Bonneville, S., "Claude Berri's Germinal ," in SĂ©quences (Quebec), November/December 1993.

Slodowski, J., " Germinal ," in Filmowy Serwis Prasowy (Kracow), no. 4, 1994.

Bear, Liza, "Berri Brings Savoir-faire to Producing Game," in Film Journal (New York), April 1994.

* * *

Claude Berri started out in the early 1950s as an actor, and for several years appeared in roles on stage and screen. When he realized that stardom would elude him, be turned to writing and directing; however, he remained in front of the camera in many of his earliest films as director-screenwriter. The most representative include Le Vieil homme et l'enfant ( The Two of Us ), Le Cinema du papa ( Papa's Movies ), Mazel Tov ou le mariage ( Marry Me! Marry Me! ), Le Sex Shop , and Le Male du siecle ( Male of the Century ). Le Vieil homme et l'enfant , Berri's debut feature, is set during World War II and chronicles the evolving relationship between a grumpy old anti-Semite and a young Jewish boy. It is a warm-hearted, humanistic allegory, seasoned with an ethnic flavor that reflects Berri's Polish-Romanian Jewish background and, even more specifically, his own experiences when his parents went into hiding during the Occupation and placed him with a non-Jewish family.

In his subsequent films, the relationships and themes Berri explored were more adult in nature: love and marriage (in Mazel Tov ou le mariage ); the male preoccupation with sex and pornography ( Le Sex Shop ); marital jealousy ( Le Male du siecle ); and connections between parents and offspring ( Le Cinema du papa ). In each, Berri casts himself as the male lead; that they are at least partially autobiographical is evidenced by the fact that all of Berri's characters are named "Claude." Berri's parents both were employed in the Paris fur district, and in Mazel Tov ou le mariage his character even is a furrier's son. The manner in which the "Claude" character permeates Berri's early work parallels Truffaut's use of Antoine Doinel as a cinematic alter ego. Nonetheless, Berri's early-career films are fashioned as mainstream entertainments, and so even the best of them do not rate with the works of Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol, or other icons of the French New Wave. Indeed, Berri has admitted that at this stage of his career his primary aim was to amuse, rather than create art.

After a career slump in the late 1970s, Berri came back strong in the following decade with three very different films: Je vous aime ( I Love You All ), an exploration of romantic connections from a woman's viewpoint; Le Maitre d'ecole ( The School Master ), the story of a devoted schoolteacher; and Tchao, pantin! , a tale of revenge centering on a lonely anti-hero and his response to the murder of a young friend. Then he reached a career summit with Jean de Florette and a sequel, Manon des sources ( Manon of the Spring ), adapted from Marcel Pagnol's two-volume novel, The Water of the Hills , which deservedly became major art house hits in the United States. Both are rich and rewarding examples of old-fashioned, back-to-basics storytelling, with colorful, larger-than-life characterizations and fluid, cohesive narratives. Jean de Florette and Manon des sources are linked to Le Vieil homme et l'enfant as films that tell simple, human stories. In this regard, they are links both to Berri's cinematic roots and the films he scripted and directed in the 1990s.

Jean de Florette is the story of Jean Cadoret, a hunchback who inherits some farmland in Pagnol's beloved Provence. Jean arrives with his wife and young daughter in tow, and elicits a passion for toiling the earth. His dream is to live peacefully, and eat the vegetables he harvests. Unfortunately, a wily, powerful old landowner named Cesar Soubeyran covets Jean's property for its hidden resource: a stream. The naive, affable Jean is unaware that this source of water exists on his land; meanwhile, Cesar and his cretinous nephew Ugolin plot to drive him out of the district by concocting a series of deceptions.

The films ends with Jean dead and his little daughter Manon accidentally discovering the deceit. This serves as a segue into Manon des sources , with Manon having grown into a beautiful shepherdess who is like a force of nature. Yet she also is awaiting the right moment to avenge her father.

Jean de Florette and Manon des sources lyrically capture the ebb and flow of life while reflecting on living and dying, the passage of time, and survival. Both mirror the nature of pettiness and greed, and how they may cause unnecessary, irrevocable pain; they spotlight the simple reality that one person's fortune may be another's catastrophe. If Jean de Florette details the anguish of an innocent man who savors life and meets an early end because of his neighbors' avarice, Manon des sources chronicles how those villains are not allowed peace. Despite the ambitious themes explored by Berri in his subsequent films, Jean de Florette and Manon des sources remain the bellwethers of his career.

Uranus , Berri's first release of the 1990s, is a contemplative chronicle of the interaction between the citizens, among them collaborators, resistance members, and those in between, in a small French town at the end of World War II. Here, Berri returns to the approximate time period of Le Vieil homme et l'enfant. He does the same while focusing on individual heroism in Lucie Aubrac , the based-on-fact account of husband-and-wife members of the French Resistance. While all three films succeed as vivid depictions of life in France during the war, Uranus and Lucie Aubrac offer Berri's take on the manner in which individual Frenchmen and women responded to the chaos of the time. Finally, Germinal , based on the Emile Zola novel, is epic in scope, a sobering, carefully detailed expose of the exploitation of French coal miners in the late 19th century. The film is linked to Jean de Florette and Manon des sources as a humanistic exploration of the manner in which individuals are manipulated by greater forces of evil.

In the early 1960s, Berri established his own production company; a decade later, he was involved in the formation of a distribution company. Over the years he has produced, co-produced, and distributed scores of films. He has been equally involved in the backing of commercial and non-commercial properties, and such classics as Eric Rohmer's Ma Nuit chez Maud ( My Night at Maud's ) and Jacques Rivette's Celine et Julie vont en bateau ( Celine and Julie Go Boating ). Most often, he has worked over and over with the same filmmakers, including Maurice Pialat, Claude Zidi, Patrice Chereau, and Josiane Balasko.

—Rob Edelman

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