Paul GÉgauff - Writer

Writer. Pseudonym: Martial Matthieu. Nationality: French. Born: Blötzheim, 10 August 1922. Education: Attended schools in Mulhouse and Basle, and educated at home. Family: Married the actress Danielle (Gégauff) (divorced). Career: Writer of fiction in the 1950s; cofounder, Cine-Club du Quartier Latin; 1959—first feature film as writer, Les Cousins ; occasional actor. Died: (Murdered) in Gjoevic, Norway, 25 December 1983.

Films as Writer:


Journal d'un scélérat (Rohmer) (+ ro)


Les Cousins ( The Cousins ) (Chabrol); Plein Soleil ( Purple Noon ) (Clément); A double tour ( Leda; Web of Passion ) (Chabrol); Le Signe du lion ( The Sign of Leo ) (Rohmer)


Les Bonnes Femmes (Chabrol)


Les Godelureaux (Chabrol)


Les Reflux—L'Enfer au paradis (+ d); Un Chien dans un jeu de quilles (Collin)


Ophélia (Chabrol) (as Martial Matthieu); Les Grands Chemins ( Of Flesh and Blood ) (Marquand)


"L'Homme qui vendit la Tour Eiffel" ep. of Les Plus Belles Escroqueries du monde ( The Beautiful Swindlers ) (Chabrol); Le Gros Coup (Valère)


Le Scandale ( The Champagne Murders ) (Chabrol); Diaboliquement vôtre ( Diabolically Yours ) (Duvivier)


Les Biches ( The Does ) (Chabrol); Delphine (Le Hung); La Femme écarlate ( The Scarlet Woman ) (Valère)


Que la bête meure ( This Man Must Die ; Killer! ) (Chabrol); More (Schroeder)


Les Novices (Casaril); Qui? (Keigel)


La Decade prodigieuse ( Ten Days' Wonder ) (Chabrol); Docteur Popaul ( Scoundrel in White ) (Chabrol); La Vallée ( The Valley ) (Schroeder)


Une Invitation à la chasse (Chabrol)


Une Partie de plaisir ( A Piece of Pleasure ; Love Match ) (Chabrol) (+ ro); Les Magiciens (Chabrol)


Brigade mondaine ( La Secte de Marrakech ) (Matalon); Historien om en moder ( The Story of a Mother ) (Weeks)


Les Folies d'elodie ( Naughty Blue Knickers ) (Génovès)

Films as Actor:


Le Vice et la vertu ( Vice and Virtue ) (Vadim)


La Ligne de démarcation ( Line of Demarcation ) (Chabrol)


Week-end ( Weekend ) (Godard)


Hellé (Vadim)


By GÉGAUFF: books—

Les Mauvais Plaisants , Paris, 1951.

Le Toit des autres , Paris, 1952. Rebus , Paris, 1957.
Une Partie de plaisir , Paris, 1958. Tous mes amis , Paris, 1969.

By GÉGAUFF: articles—

Image et Son (Paris), January 1971.

Télérama (Paris), 18 January 1975. Monthly Film Bulletin (London), August 1977.

On GÉGAUFF: articles—

Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), December 1962.

Chaplin (Stockholm), no. 2, 1970.

Dirigido por . . . (Barcelona), August 1977.

Obituary in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), February 1984.

Obituary in Cinématographe , March 1984.

Pawelczak, Andy, " Purple Noon ," in Films in Review , September-October 1996.

Buss, Robin, " Plein Soleil ," in Times Literary Supplement , 29 August 1997.

Reader, Keith, " Plein Soleil/Delitto in pieno sole/Blazing Sun/Purple Noon ," in Sight and Sound (London), September 1997.

* * *

Paul Gégauff and Claude Chabrol first met in the early 1950s at the Ciné-Club du Quartier Latin. Gégauff at this time was already a published novelist; Chabrol was a university student. A few years later Chabrol was one of the leading directors of the French New Wave, and Gégauff was his screenwriter.

The nature of the Chabrol-Gégauff collaboration is difficult to pin down. Chabrol is a fine writer himself, and he often takes cowriting credit in his films with Gégauff. Also, Chabrol has certain "signature" traits—a murder mystery plot, a bourgeois milieu, a pervasive atmosphere of guilt and complicity—no matter who writes the script. However, the Chabrol-Gégauff films do seem to be both crueler and more complexly plotted than the films Chabrol has written on his own.

The first Chabrol-Gégauff film was Les Cousins , one of the key films of the early New Wave. Les Cousins tells the story of a naive country cousin and a cynical city cousin, both students in contemporary Paris, and of the young woman to whom both are attracted. As in many Chabrol-Gégauff films, the characters are either repressed or decadent, with other, healthier possibilities almost entirely excluded.

With the commercial and critical success of Les Cousins , Chabrol and Gégauff were able to make more experimental narratives such as A double tour and Les Bonnes Femmes . The title of A double tour refers to a technique of scrambling chronology to show the same time period from more than one point of view. The murder mystery plot has Leda, a beautiful artist, killed by the son of her married lover. One interesting aspect of this film is its mixture of spontaneous, free characters and repressed, violent characters—both within the same family setting. Chabrol and Gégauff seem more adept at presenting the repressed characters, but they also try their hand at New Wave spontaneity à la Truffaut. Les Bonnes Femmes describes the lives and dreams of four Parisian shopgirls. Notably distanced and unsentimental, the film shows the young women as limited in imagination and self-knowledge.

Between 1967 and 1975 Chabrol and Gégauff collaborated on six feature films. Les Biches , the best known of them, returns to the triangular relationship of Les Cousins , but with greater rigor and intensity. The triangle here features two women (one inexperienced, one decadent) and one man; all possible relationships, including a lesbian affair, are worked out. The tangled motives and desires of the characters lead inevitably to a concluding murder. Les Biches is a subtle exploration of love and cruelty that marks the peak of the Chabrol-Gégauff collaboration.

Une Partie de plaisir , the last Chabrol-Gégauff film, is about the breakup of a marriage after the husband decides that he and his wife should take other lovers. The intimacies and cruelties of a relationship are here presented without the melodramatic touches (murders, hidden motives, surprises) of other Chabrol-Gégauff films. Curiously, Gégauff himself plays one lead in the film, his wife Danielle (they were separated at the time) the other. Nevertheless, Gégauff maintained that his script was only marginally autobiographical.

Gégauff's films with Chabrol are generally austere, beautifully made explorations of characters with limited self-knowledge who exist in highly defined and often repressive social environments. In his work with Barbet Schroeder, Gégauff turns to looser, freer, more exotic subjects. Both More and The Valley are clearly films of the late 1960s-early 1970s "youth culture," concerned with the sexual revolution, the use of drugs, the search for a new consciousness. But the cynical Gégauff does not suddenly turn sentimental in these films—the freedom of More is destroyed by heroin addiction; the freedom of The Valley may be an illusion.

Paul Gégauff also wrote four novels and one short-story collection. His literary work anticipates some themes of his scripts—cruelty, decadence, characters of limited self-understanding—and showcases a dark sense of humor. One story, set in Parisian film circles, satirizes the pretensions of film acting.

—Peter Lev

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