Max Douy - Writer





Art Director. Nationality: French. Born: Issy-Les-Moulineaux, 20 June 1914; brother of the designer Jacques Douy. Education: Studied architecture. Career: 1930–41—assistant art director for Jacques Colombier, Lucien Aguettand, Lazare Meerson, Alexandre Trauner, Serge Pimenoff, and Eugène Lourié; then art director for films, stage plays, and television (including the mini-series Lucien Leuwen, 1973). Awards: Cannes Film Festival award, for Occupe-toi d'Amélie, 1949; César award, for Le Malevil, 1980.


Films as Assistant Art Director:

1930

Le Poignard malais (Goupillières); Le Rêve (de Baroncelli); Levy et Cie (Hugon); Kopfüber ins Gluck (Steinhoff); Das gelbe Haus des King-Fu (Grune); La Petite Lise (Grémillon); Accusée, levez-vous! (M. Tourneur)

1931

La Bête errante (de Gastyne); Les Croix de bois (Bernard); Grains de beauté (Caron); Paris-Mediterranée (May); Partir (M. Tourneur); Le Roi du cirage (Colombier)

1932

Au nom de la loi (M. Tourneur); L'Ane de Bruidan (Ryder); Enlevez-moi (Perret); Mirages de Paris (Ozep); Les Gaietés de l'escadron (M. Tourneur)

1933

Les Deux Orphelines (M. Tourneur); Chotard et Cie (Renoir); Tout pour rien (Pujol); Charlemagne (Colombier); Ces messieurs de la Santé (Colombier); Totò (J. Tourneur); Les Deux Canards (Schmidt); Il était une fois (Perret); Léopold le bienaimé (Brun); Le Paquebot Tenacity (Duvivier); Théodore et Cie (Colombier)

1934

L'Atalante (Vigo); Les Misérables (Bernard—3 parts); Dactylo se marie (May and Pujol); Sapho (Perret); Mam'zelle Spahi (de Vaucorbeil); Zouzou (M. Allégret); Tartarin de tarascon (Bernard)

1935

La Rosière des Halles (de Limur); Le Bonheur (L'Herbier); L'École des cocottes (Colombier); Le Clown Bux (Natanson); Princess Tam-Tam (Gréville); Le Bébé de l'escadron (Sti)

1937

Ces dames aux chapeaux verts (Cloche); Ramuntcho (Barberis )

1938

Le Paradis de Satan (Gandera); Werther (Le Roman de Werther) (Ophüls); La Bête humaine (The Human Beast) (Renoir)

1939

L'Enfer du jeu (Macao, l'enfer du jeu) (Delannoy); La Règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game) (Renoir); Air pur (Clair—unfinished)

1940

Sans lendemain (Ophüls)

1941

Nous les gosses (Daquin); Le Pavillon brûle (de Baroncelli); Ce n'est pas moi (de Baroncelli); La Maison des sept jeunes filles (Valentin); La Duchesse de Langeais (de Baroncelli)



Films as Art Director:

1942

Le Dernier atout (Jacques Becker)

1943

Lumière d'été (Grémillon); Adieu . . . Léonard! (P. Prévert); Feu Nicolas (Houssin)

1944

Le Ciel est à vous (Grémillon)

1945

Falbalas (Paris Frills) (Jacques Becker); La Ferme du pendu (Dréville); Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (Bresson); François Villon (Zwobada)

1946

L'Affaire du collir de la reine (The Queen's Necklace) (L'Herbier); Pétrus (M. Allégret)

1947

Le Diable au corps (Devil in the Flesh) (Autant-Lara); Quai des Orfèvres (Clouzot)

1948

Le Mystère de la chambre jaune (Aisner); Manon (Clouzot)

1949

Occupe-toi d'Amélie (Oh Amelia!) (Autant-Lara); Le Parfum de la dame en noir (Daquin); "Le Retour de Jean" ep. of Retour à la vie (Clouzot); La Belle que voilà (Le Chanois)

1950

Terreur en Oklahoma (Heinrich and Paviot—short); Sans laisser d'adresse (Le Chanois); Adventures of Captain Fabian (Marshall)

1951

Agence matrimoniale (Le Chanois); L'Auberge rouge (The Red Inn) (Autant-Lara)

1952

Linking sketch and "L'Orgueil" ("Pride") ep. of Les Septs Péchés capitaux (The Seven Capital Sins) (Lacombe and Autant-Lara)

1953

Le Bon Dieu sans confession (Autant-Lara); Le Blé en herbe (The Game of Love) (Autant-Lara)

1954

L'Affaire Maurizius (Duvivier); Le Rouge et le noir (Autant-Lara)

1955

French Can-Can (Only the French Can) (Renoir); Les Mauvaises Rencontres (Astruc); Cela s'appelle l'aurore (Buñuel); Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (Staudte—unfinished)

1956

Marguerite de la nuit (Autant-Lara); La Traversée de Paris (Four Bags Full) (Autant-Lara)

1957

Tamango (Berry)

1958

Celui qui doit mourir (He Who Must Die) (Dassin); En cas de malheur (Love Is My Profession) (Autant-Lara); Le Joueur (Autant-Lara)

1959

Les Dragueurs (Mocky); La Jument verte (The Green Mare) (Autant-Lara)

1960

Les Régates de San Francisco (Autant-Lara); Le Bois des amants (Autant-Lara); Le panier à crabes (Lisbona)

1961

Tu ne tueras point (Non uccidere; Thou Shalt Not Kill) (Autant-Lara); Le Comte de Monte Cristo (The Story of the Count of Monte Cristo) (Autant-Lara—2 parts); "La Colère" ("Anger") ep. of Les Sept Péchés capitaux (The Seven Capital Sins) (Dhomme) (adviser)

1962

Phaedra (Dassin); Vive Henri IV, vive l'amour (Autant-Lara); Mandarin, bandit gentilhomme (Le Chanois)

1963

Le Meurtrier (Enough Rope) (Autant-Lara)

1964

Le Magot de Joséfa (Autant-Lara); "La Fourmi" ep. of Humour noir (Autant-Lara); Topkapi (Dassin); Patate (Friend of the Family) (Thomas)

1965

Le Journal d'une femme en blanc (A Woman in White) (Autant-Lara); Thunderball (Young) (uncredited); Un Monde nouveau (A Young World) (De Sica); Fantômas se déchaîne (Hunebelle)

1966

La Seconde Vérité (Christian-Jaque); Le Nouveau Journal d'une femme en blanc (Une Femme en blanc se revolte) (Autant-Lara); Atout coeur à Tokyo pour OSS 177 (Boisrond)

1967

Fantômas contre Scotland Yard (Hunebelle); "Aujourd'hui" ep. of Le Plus Vieux Métier du monde (The Oldest Profession) (Autant-Lara); Le Franciscain de Bourges (Autant-Lara)

1969

Catherine, il suffit d'un amour (Borderie); Les Patates (Autant-Lara); Castle Keep (Pollack)

1970

Tang (Michel)

1971

Joseph Balsamo (Hunebelle); Bouevard du Rhum (Enrico); La Cavale (Mitrani)

1972

Les Caids (Enrico); Le Moine (Kyrou); L'Insolent (Roy)

1973

A nous quatre, Cardinal (Hunebelle); Les Quatre Charlots mousequetaires (Hunebelle)

1975

Section speciale (Special Section) (Costa-Gavras); Le Sauvage (Rappeneau)

1976

La Victoire en chantant (Annaud); Vous n'aurez pas l'Alsace et la Lorraine (Coluche)

1979

Moonraker (Gilbert)

1980

Le Malevil (de Chalonge)

1981

Les quarantième rugissante (de Chalonge)

1984

Monsieur de Pourceaugnas (Mitrani)



Publications


By DOUY: books—

With Jacques Douy, Décors de Cinéma , 1993.

By DOUY: articles—

Film Français (Paris), 28 November 1975.

Positif (Paris), July-August 1981.

Positif (Paris), September 1981.


On DOUY: articles—

Unifrance (Paris), May 1950.

Cinéma Français (Paris), 24 February 1951.

Film Français (Paris), 17 June 1977.

Cinématographe (Paris), March 1982.


* * *


Max Douy was one of the most prolific art directors of French cinema. Having regularly collaborated on the films of Claude Autant-Lara since Le Diable au corps , he contributed greatly to the French "tradition of quality" which the New Wave critics and filmmakers so virulently attacked. This work with Autant-Lara was often in the service of narratives in which stylized poetry (in the manner of the collaborations between Lazare Meerson and René Clair, or Alexandre Trauner and Marcel Carné) was less important than sober issues of character psychology and morality. Consequently, his sets often were conceived in order to complement a visual style which foregrounded dialogue rather than décor and their relationship to narrative requirements frequently made them persuasively, although discreetly, realistic. Indeed, Douy's skill was such that sets for exteriors often could be mistaken for real locations. For example, the garden of the Jaubert family and the streets in which Gérard Philipe meets the husband of Micheline Presle and asks him for a light for his cigarette in Le Diable au corps , or the small provincial square of Le Ciel est à vous .

Douy vigorously defended such a use of studio sets for exteriors against the location shooting that emerged with the New Wave. The greater control of work conditions and of lighting, especially important for color films, complied with his insistence on quality professionalism. For L'Auberge rouge , Douy said that only 17 shots were actual exterior locations; everything else, including the little bridge and the credits, were studio sets. His designs for interiors, such as the reconstruction of the Véfour Restaurant and Harry's Bar in Le Diable au corps , Bernard Blier's and Suzy Delair's apartment in Quai des Orfèvres (based on Douy's own apartment), could also be convincingly realistic.

Nevertheless, the vast experience of Douy led him to work in many styles. Although the most successful films on which he worked usually required an efficiently unobtrusive impression of the real that suited the needs of a somewhat solemn psychological realism, he was also responsible for more flamboyant designs: the widely acclaimed theatrical sets of Occupe-toi d'Amélie , so wittily used by Autant-Lara; the stylization of Le Rouge et le noir , an important part of the simplification of Stendhal's novel in order to avoid a crushing décor and to facilitate concentration on characters and dialogue; the expressionistic quality of the sets for Marguerite de la nuit , translucent and colored and lit from behind; the silhouettes of the theatrical flats that reconstruct a familiar yet strangely unreal Paris for La Traversée de Paris ; or the gothic designs for Castle Keep in which the sets have the force of a character.

Yet whatever the degree of reality inherent in Douy's designs, they were always conceived and constructed to serve the subject of the film; stylization was never the result of gratuitous ostentation. Indeed, Douy's insistence on filmmaking as a team activity, thoroughly opposed to the New Wave's individualistic notions of "auteur," excluded all possibility of any such gratuitous brilliance that could run contrary to the needs of a narrative. His preferred way of working involved very close preproduction collaboration with the director and other members of the team. He preferred to prepare drawings of the sets as they were to appear on the screen, taking into account the focal length of the lens used, and consequently he designed and built his sets according to the dramatic necessity of camera angles and camera and actor movement. Such a method, developed in France during the 1930s by art directors such as Jacques Colombier and Jean Perrier (to whom Douy was assistant), involves meticulous shot by shot preparation and not only ensures that the sets serve the requirements of the narrative, but is also economical and allows directors to concentrate on the direction of actors during the shooting. Such an intense collaboration is especially characteristic of Douy's work with Autant-Lara, Henri-Georges Clouzot, and Jean-Paul Le Chanois.

Douy's thorough professionalism was the result of a long career, begun at the age of 16. He worked for 12 years as an assistant art director, serving apprenticeship to most of the great designers of the 1930s: at Pathé-Natan he worked not only with Jean Perrier and Jacques Colombier, but also with Lucien Aguettand and Guy de Castyne. He later worked with Francis Jourdain on the cluttered and realistic sets of Jean Vigo's L'Atalante , and with Lazare Meerson on Marc Allégret's Zouzou and Edmond Gréville's Princesse Tam-Tam . Collaborating with Eugene Lourié on Jean Renoir's La Bête humaine and La Règle du jeu , Douy worked on sets which have the same force of realism as his later designs for Le Diable au corps .

—Richard Alwyn



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