Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Henri Jeanson's story

continues from: Bertrand Tavernier's stories 1993

from 70 ans d’adolescence by Henri Jeanson (translation mine)

Tell me how you started out, I will tell you who you are. The conditions in which Truffaut published his first article in Les Cahiers du Cinema are in the likeness of its author. they form an edifying anecdote which when I tell it in moments when the conversation is languishing, always is rewarded with its own humble succes de mesestime.
One day, Mr. Truffaut who wanted to his career to take off with a lightning start, requested from my friend Pierre Bost an interview which with his customary granted him.
Scarcely had he entered, “Oh, Monsieur Bost, how happy I am to get to know you. Imagine that I have admired you since 1944,” - he was twelve years old - I have read all your novels. Homicide par imprudence, Hercule et Mademoiselle, M. Ladmiral va bientot mourir. I know that you have been or are the friend of Gide, Camus, Saint-Exupéry, Paulhan, Copeau, Prévert, Fargue, Martin du Gard, Queneau, Alain and Jouvet who, on stage, has acted in your plays.”
“I thank you.”
“And I know that your name with that of your collaborator, Jean Aurenche, figures in the credits of some of the films which i like the most, Forbidden Games, Le Diable au corps, La Traversée de Paris, Le Château de verre, Gervaise...
“I thank you”
“I am sorry to request your discretion, this is what brings me here; I have been told that you have written with Aurenche a screenplay for Georges Bernanos’s Diary of a Country Priest.”
“That is right. but it was not filmed because it was not to liking of Bernanos.”
“He was certainly wrong.”
“No, for he knows his work better than us. It is within him always but within us only momentarily. A great difference.”
“I would like to ask you - but dare I ?”
“Go right ahead.”
“-to ask you to entrust your screenplay to me. I am so curious, so passionate for all that you have done. It need not be said that I will return it to you in forty-eight hours and that I will speakk of it to no one. I can keep a secret. Word of honor.
“Well then, take it. it is yours.
“Oh, thank you for this token of trust. I will not disappoint you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
And there is how some days later there appeared, in Truffaut’s name, a savaging - this time mercilessly - of Aurenche and Bost and their adaptation.

Such is this Truffaut who learned of the death of [Louis] Jouvet with a certain joy.
“I can not say,” he declared, “that I rejoice, only almost. He has made a pile of anti-cinema declarations. Oh well he is dead, too bad for him.”

Jeanson's story is rendered a little credible when you know that Truffaut had written this in an article for the weekly Arts, "This year, Aurenche and Bost proved themselves indispensible with La Traversée de Paris which they wanted to be clever and new, as well as with Gervaise which they wanted academic and conventional: according to what you want, they will "wrap it up" very neatly." (from The Early film Criticism of François Truffaut by Wheeler Winston Dixon, translation here by Sonja Kropp). In that article, Truffaut selected La Traversée de Paris which Aurenche and Bost wrote the screenplay for as one of the five best French films of the year. But, in context of Jeanson's story, here's the rub, the year was 1956 and the article was printed in the Dec 19 issue of Arts. Truffaut had had kudos for both films; however, neither film was made until 1956. So while Tavernier seems to have Truffaut borrowing the screenplay long before he did, Jeanson has him borrowing the screenplay almost three years after he wrote A Certain Tendency.
Jeanson had a certain skill with words and his memoirs can make for entertaining reading, but they could scarcely be termed history; indeed, because of the virtual non-presence of Julien Duvivier, it could just about not be termed a memoir. Jeanson as a scenarist is probably best known for his collaborations with the director Julien Duvivier with whom he collaborated on Pépé le Moko and seven other films. That being said, one would assume that Jeanson would refer to primary collaborator simply as Julien and that the memoir would flush with Duvivier anecdotes. But in some 350 pages, I could only find three instances where Duvivier gets as much as a passing mention. Jeanson tells his reader nothing of Pépe le Moko nor anything of Le Carnet du bal
or any of his other noted collaborations with Duvivier. Duvivier only rates two passing mentions, and then towrads the end of the book, Duvivier is thrown what appears to me to be a dig in a long screed directed at François Truffaut. One is left to wonder if Duvivier's relationship with Truffaut is at the root of Jeanson's omission here. (for insight into the relations Duvivier-Truffaut please see my post Julien Duvivier and François Truffaut)
There is also the reference to Truffaut's coldness at Louis Jouvet's death because Jouvet made "a pile of anti-cinema declarations". I have tried to run down the actual quote - if there is such a quote - and I can discover no listing in Eugene Walz's François Truffaut a guide to references and resources in which this statement might have been made. Of course, Truffaut might have said it in an interview. Either way it would have been spoken too long enough after Jouvet's death to have been a case of disrespect. Were it that Truffaut made this statement on the occasion of Louis Jouvet's death in August 1951, it must be wondered upon how Jeanson would know. At that time, Truffaut was still not a journalist; in fact Truffaut was in Villemin Hospital - and not in the best of mental and physical condition - in August 1951, when Jouvet died. So it is doubtful that he made it then and if he did, then who was Jeanson's informer?

continues at: Bertrand Tavernier's story -- 1984

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