Jacques Rozier, the last figure of the “real” New Wave

By Le Figaro with AFP



In 1997, the filmmaker received the René Clair prize for his entire cinematographic work. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

The filmmaker, supported by Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut, searched all his life for the fairest image and inspired several French directors.

Filmmaker of the great outdoors and the open sea, Jacques Rozier, who died at the age of 96, became thanks to only a handful of films a figure of the New Wave, admired by his peers and by critics. He notably received the Jean Vigo prize in 1986 for Maine Oceanthe René Clair prize in 1997 for all of his work, the Carrosse d’or 2002 at Cannes, he directed Farewell Filipina (1962), On the side of Orouet (1973) and The Castaways of Turtle Island (1976).

Four films in more than half a century… He shot two more, Fifi martingale (2001), never released theatrically, and The Parisian parrot (2007), which remained unfinished.

Anar with a tender heart, a lover of crossroads, a sometimes uncontrollable director, sometimes a dabbler, but also an obsessive researcher of the right image, he has also shot around twenty short films, often noticed, and worked for television.

“The real New Wave”

In 2019, Jean-Luc Godard (since deceased) saluted the trace left by Jacques Rozier in French cinema: “When Agnès Varda died, I thought: the real New Wave, there are only two of us left. Me and (…) Jacques Rozier who started a little before me». The New Wave movement, born at the end of the 1950s, intended to break with clic cinematographic techniques in favor of experimentation and an individualistic, even iconoclastic approach. Besides Jacques Rozier, its most emblematic figures are Jean-Luc Godard,Francois Truffaut, Agnes VardaLouis Malle, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Demy or Eric Rohmer. “Of New Wave filmmakers, Rozier is the one who wanders. The one who likes everything to go wrong, to better feed his very particular sense of dramaturgy (…)”welcomed the announcement of his death to the Cinémathèque française.

He was born on November 10, 1926 in Paris. A graduate of IDHEC (the film school that became Fémis) in 1947, he was Jean Renoir’s istant for French Cancan (1955), made short films like Paparazzi And The party of things (both in 1963) behind the scenes of the filming of Contempt by Godard. In 1962, released his first feature film, Farewell Filipina. A bittersweet chronicle of French youth against a backdrop of the Algerian war, it became one of the flagship films of the New Wave.

Cinema, a question “of risk and desire”

François Truffaut and Godard support him. However, he had little success. Same fate for the following film, eleven years later, On the side of Orouetstory (filmed in 16 mm initially) of a middle-cl family on vacation.

Jacques Rozier calls on Pierre Richard, then star of French cinema, to play in The Castaways of Turtle Island. The film works a little better. We find there his humor tinged with cynicism and a taste for dreamlike atmospheres. It tells the story of two employees of a travel agency who launch a new tourist concept à la Robinson Crusoé. In the end, it’s a fiasco. Maine Ocean (1985) recounts the journey, or rather the pataphysical trip to the west of France, of eccentric characters: a Brazilian singer, two train conductors (Bernard Menez and Luis Rego), a hysterical lawyer and an irascible fisherman.

Your movies “have the false lightness, the freshness that one finds only in the first films (…). All your films look like first films”said the young filmmaker Guillaume Brac in 2019 during a meeting organized by Telerama with the old master. “The French directors following in your wake, I’m thinking of Sophie Letourneur, Justine Triet and myself, have in common that they wrote and shot their first film in a few weeks, with a script that was rarely complete, a extremely limited funding. Conditions that go against the current norm where writing can take years”, he added. To which Jacques Rozier, still lively despite his age, had replied: “As soon as I hear someone tell me that he has been refining his screenplay for two years, I want to tell him to keep it to himself. Cinema is about risk and desire. Like love”.

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