Monday, February 26, 2007


This was added on November 25

Whose screenplay is it, anyways?

As I have been rethinking my original thesis in the last month or so, I have found myself coming back to the question: Whose screenplay is it anyways?
Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost prepared an adaptation of copy-written material. That adaptation was rejected (and not by a producer who contracted them for the adaptation, but by the holder of the copyright on the underlying material). They can't pitch that material to another producer (at least one would think not). They can't take it to an editor and see it published in print. As long as they were paid as contracted and as any effort to carry forward with that screenplay see them credited, they can't claim much else. This would seem to imply that the "intellectual rights" to that property remain with the holder of the rights to the underlying material. In this case, Georges Bernanos, and , after his death, his heirs. Thus, it would seem that it is most correct to say that Pierre Bost lent -at least in the case of the adaptation of Diary of a Country Priest - a sheaf of papers on which was printed a screenplay which belonged to the heirs of Georges Bernanos. In addition to the screenplay for Diary of a Country Priest, Pierre Bost loaned Truffaut three other screenplays. He let him take home the screenplay for The Pastoral Symphony which had been filmed in 1946. And that for Dieu a besoin des hommes (God Needs Men) which had been released in 1950. Truffaut was also allowed to examine the screenplay for Le Blé en herbe - from the Colette novel - which Truffaut reveals in an end-note had been prepared by Aurenche and Bost in 1946 but which was not filmed until a few months after Truffaut borrowed the screenplay. That film was released on January 20 1954, almost simultaneously with appearance on the January 1954 issue of Cahiers du Cinema in which A Certain Tendency was first published. In that same note, Truffaut discussing Claude Autant-Lara (for whom the Aurenche-Bost screenplay for Le Blé en herbe had been prepared) unsuccessful plagiarism suit brought against Roger Leenhardt for his similarly themed 1948 film Les Drenières vacances. Leenhardt, it has to be noted, was André Bazin's mentor as a film critic and thus could be considered something of an arrière-mentor of Truffaut's. Truffaut also reveals that the "profaned host" scene which Aurenche and Bost had prepared for their version of Diary of a Country Priest had been inserted into their screenplay for the similarly themed Dieu a besoin des hommes from Henri Queffelec's novel Le recteur de Île de Sein. It does seem to me that we have something for the magistrate's here. Whose screenplay was the Aurenche-Bost version of Diary of a Country Priest anyways? As I have said, it would seem to me that that screenplay is the property of the detainer of the rights to the underlying material. It would seem to me that if the heirs of Georges Bernanos (Bernanos died in 1948, about a year after his ennuis with Jean Aurenche) sued for plagiarism, that the fact that Aurenche and Bost cannibalized, partially at least, their screenplay for Country Priest to write the later film would go a great way towards making the case. The question needs to be posed, to what extent had the Aurenche-Bost screenplay for Country Priest morphed into the screenplay for Dieu a besoin des hommes? One person who had the chance to study that question was François Truffaut to whom Bost had lent both screenplays. This might explain the reference to a "police report" in Bost's note to Truffaut written after A Certain Tendency was published, "I only wish that none of the many details that you give should come from me (after all, I may have spoken to you too and your piece sometimes takes on the tone of a police report). Also, With his Benedictine memory of the films he had seen, Truffaut may have immediately picked up on the similarities between the two projects and his aim in borrowing both screenplays could have been to investigate just this point."

This has been added on Feb 2 2008

Which screenplay is it, anyways?

Speaking specifically about François Truffaut's borrowing of the early and rejected Aurenche-Bost screenplay for Diary of a Country Priest, in the interview which he gave to Serge Toubiana and Michel Pascal for the documentary Portraits volées, Bertrand Tavernier says "All these documents, Bertrand Tavernier all these gifts and praises, resulted in that article[A Certain Tendency of French Cinema]". As I have demonstrated above, François Truffaut could have written that article without recourse to studying that screenplay. That material which he needed had been revealed by Georges Bernanos in a letter written in 1947.
In the latter which Pierre Bost wrote to Truffaut after that article was published, Bost wrote,

"Surtout pas des textes en somme confidentials puisqu'il s'agit d'un scénario qui n'a pas été tournée." (François Truffaut by Antoine de Baecque, Serge Toubiana Paris : Gallimard, 1996 page 585 )

Catherine Temerson in her translation of the Toubiana-de Baecque biography translates that as,
"Especially not confidential writings, since we are talking about a script that has not yet been filmed." (page 399 in the English translation of Francois Truffaut by Serge Toubiana and Antoine de Baecque published by Knopf in 1999.)
This is a perfectly valid translation if one follows the drift of the story as narrated by Toubiana and de Baecque, i.e. that Bost is making reference to the screenplay drawn from Bernanos's novel. Otherwise, the "yet" would be gratuitious and it would be translated merely as "a script that has not been filmed" The sticking point here is that Bost describes his writings as "confidential" and as I have shown those writings were already very public and controversial. Could Bost be referring to some other of his writings which Truffaut borrowed? As de Baecque revealed, in his article published in 1994 on the writing of A Certain Tendency, in November 1952 when Truffaut borrowed the the Country Priest screenplay, he also borrowed the Aurenche-Bost screen adaptation of Colette's Le Blé en herbe, another as yet unfilmed script. One though,which would go before the cameras some 8 months later at the end of July 1953. Could this be the "script" which Bost is making reference to?

In an end-note to his A Certain Tendency - one which I have to believe is noticed by few who read that article, Truffaut writes,

5) Le Blé en herbe. Colette's novel was adapted from 1945. Claude Autant-Lara accused Roger Leenhardt of having plagiarized Le Blé en herbe with Les Dernières vacances. Maurices Garcon's arbitrage ruled against Claude Autant-Lara. With Aurenche and Bost, the plot conceived by Colette was enhance with a new character, that of Dick, a lesbian who lived with the "White Lady". This character was eliminated a few weeks before the shooting of the film by Ghislaine Auboin [Autant-Lara's wife and frequent collaborater] who "revised" the adaptation with Claude Autant-Lara.

This Aurenche-Bost script for Le Blé en herbe which Truffaut borrowed from Pierre Bost certainly passes the test of "confidential". And if what Truffaut writes in this end-note is correct, then Bost could deem that his script "has not been filmed"; what was filmed was a Ghislaine Autant-Lara revision of that script.

The release date for Le Blé en herbe is co-incident with the publication date of the January 1954 issue of Cahiers. And it would not be surprising if Bost was upset about this end-note given that the publication of the January 1954 issue of Cahiers coincided with the release of Le Blé en herbe.

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