San Sebastian to host Sautet retrospective

70th edition to celebrate French writer/director

by Amber Wilkinson

Lilo Ventura and Jean-Paul Belmondo in Classe Tous Risques
Lilo Ventura and Jean-Paul Belmondo in Classe Tous Risques
San Sebastian Festival has announced it will dedicate a retrospective at its 70th edition to the French director and screenwriter Claude Sautet (1924-2000), shose films include The Big Risk (Classe Tous Risques) and The Things Of Life.

Sautet, who was known for his collaborations with artists such as Romy Schneider, Michel Piccoli and Emmanuelle Béart, is described by the festival as being at "a comparative crossroads in the history of French cinema: he belonged to neither the post-war generation of moviemakers nor the Nouvelle Vague".

The director , who was born in Montrouge in 1924 and died in Paris in 2000, took his first steps in the film industry of the 1950s as an assistant director, working on around a dozen films including comedies and crime stories produced by André Cerf, Edouard Molinaro and Richard Pottier. His most important film as an assistant was his last in the position, Eyes Without A Face (Les yeux sans visage) an influential movie by Georges Franju in whose screenplay he also had a hand.

He had previously directed his first film, Hello Smile (Bonjour sourire!), a musical comedy far removed from the works he would proceed to develop in the main body of his filmography.

Claude Sautet
Claude Sautet Photo: Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival/ DR. All rights reserved
Sautet's early interests as a director soon veered towards detective movies, including Lino Ventura-starrer Classe Tous Risques, which also features Nouvelle Vague star Jean-Paul Belmondo. Sautet had already worked with Ventura a year previously on The Tiger Attacks (Le Fauve est lâché, in which he signed the screenplay and appears to have shot a number of sequences, despite the film only being credited to Maurice Labro.

Sautet maintained his links to gangster movies and José Giovanni on participating in the screenplay of Jacques Deray's Symphony For A Massacre (Symphonie pour un massacre and in various other thrillers. He alternated his work as a screenwriter for others with the production and writing of his own movies.

Later, with the change of decade, Sautet entered the most prolific and popular period of his career thanks to the boost of Schneider and Piccoli, one of French cinema's most successful couples in the early 70s. His collaborations with the infallible acting twosome were The Things of Life ({Les choses de la vie), where they provided two sides of a love triangle, and Max And The Junkmen (Max et les ferrailleurs ), a different take on the police movie where Piccoli-Schneider maintained a love-hate relationship in the roles of detective and sex worker. Yves Montand joined the group from César and Rosalie in 1972.

Sautet's work darkened in Mado (1976), his last film with Piccoli; (A Simple Story Une histoire simple), his last collaboration with Schneider, and Waiter! (Garçon!) in 1983, his last with Montand. All are films about the ups and downs of love and the notion of clinging to a last chance.

The Eighties brought films including A Few Days With Me (Quelques Jours Avec Moi), starring Daneil Auteil and A Bad Son (Un mauvais fils), followed by collaborations with Emmanuelle Béart on A Heart In Winter (In Coeur En Hiver) and Nelly & Mr Arnaud (Nelly Et Monsieur Arnaud).

His last work was within the Collectif de cinéastes pour les sans-papiers, a group of 200 French directors, producers, exhibitors and distributors –including Bertrand Tavernier, Jacques Audiard, Sólveig Anspach, Catherine Corsini, Laurent Cantet, Philippe Garrel, Lola Doillon and Alain Bergala– who signed their manifest as a short film in support of all undocumented immigrants in France, Nous, sans-papiers de France (1997).

The Festival's 70th edition, to run from September 16-24, will launch a collection of books on cinema, published in collaboration with the Filmoteca Vasca and whose first issue will be dedicated to Claude Sautet.

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