Claude Lelouch: “I am a reporter of life, I am a life director more than a director”

Claude Lelouch is a director, producer, screenwriter. More than 50 films stick to his skin, some of which have earned him great awards, but also recognition from the public and critics, both nationally and internationally. He received the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for A man and a woman (1966), in addition to the Palme d’or awarded by the Cannes film festival.

To listen to it, find it and discover it, Philippe Azoulay is releasing, this Wednesday, May 11, 2022, a documentary turn to live with the participation of Jean Dujardin, Sandrine Bonnaire, Johnny Hallyday, Francis Lai, Quentin Tarantino, Jean-Louis Trintignant.

franceinfo: This title, turn to live does it define you?

Claude Lelouch: Yes, the cinema is a bit my oxygen. We are all filmmakers. Our eyes are the most beautiful camera in the world, our ears, the most beautiful microphones and our memory, the most beautiful editing room one can imagine since we cut and keep only what remains at the end. Cinema is a natural art and I fed on this natural art from my earliest childhood. I understood that it would be a medium with which I could share my curiosity which is infernal.

It’s funny because usually it’s you who film the others and there you found yourself filmed, answering questions. Does that change things? Does it also allow you to do some introspection?

Yes. Somewhere, when I was asked to film myself, I said to myself: maybe I’ll discover things.

So what ?

I realized that I was a little crazy all the same and that you had to be a little crazy to do this job, that you didn’t have to be rational. The irrational is something very important, it tells us that we are here for a very long time and that from one life to another, we will be recycled. The messages of the irrational seem to me more essential.

Most of my films were born out of irrational decisions, more than rational, and that’s why they had what they had, both ups and downs.

Claude Lelouch

at franceinfo

It’s true that it’s an unprecedented cinematic journey with you. Your view on this career, on some of your major films. You speak without restraint. Philippe Azoulay opens by saying: “If Claude Lelouch is a name in the Pantheon of French cinema, he nevertheless arouses controversy. It is sometimes well seen to hate him, to say that he is megalomaniac, naive, even cutesy“. How did you protect yourself throughout this journey?

I think we’re the same age all our lives. I’ve been 18, 19 my whole life, and I have an amazing power of wonder. I can’t stop marveling at this great screenwriter, life, with whom I work. He’s my favorite screenwriter, plus he doesn’t ask to be in the credits and doesn’t cost a penny. It has all the advantages. It’s true that he has an absolutely crazy imagination and it’s this wonder that makes me get up very early every morning and try to go to bed as late as possible.

This documentary begins when you decide in 2012 to play the extensions by making three films in three years. It is an immersion in your creative process and in your space-time. It feels like life is shrinking and for you it is growing. You quote this sentence of Jacques Brel: “I never lived so well as considering that each day could be the last“.

I am a follower of the present, the cinema films the present.

Claude Lelouch

at franceinfo

Yes, it’s true that the day Jacques told me he was going to leave soon, he said to me: “It’s since I know that that I finally enjoy life and God knows if I’ve been a pleasure seeker“. So we miss out on our life because we think it’s eternal. And it’s not true. Every second can tell us: “Stop“. I realized very quickly that the present was going to be the person who loves me the most and who was not going to disappoint me. In the future, you can be betrayed.

Have you been betrayed at times?

Yes, but they were good betrayals. It allowed me to learn things. I myself have betrayed many people. I believe that the only thing that I have not betrayed is the cinema. But I betrayed my children, I betrayed my wives, I betrayed some friends because at some point, I was not up to what was offered to me. It’s like in my films, there are no superheroes or superbastards. We all have the qualities of our faults and then I like to film people who are a little less disgusting than the others.

In turn to livewe also discover to what extent you defend cinema, your cinema and therefore popular auteur cinema.

Yes, because it is a cinema without intermediary. I have a lot of respect for all the filmmakers in the world who have made great films, but especially for filmmakers who talk about things they know. Charlie Chaplin, Jacques Tati, Woody Allen… The list is impressive from Sacha Guitry to Marcel Pagnol, there is no intermediary. They also write their stories and so they talk about things they know inside. Here, my 50 films come from my observations, come from men and women, from dialogues that I heard in the street, in the cafés. I am a reporter of life, I am a life director more than a director.

Proud of this course?

Yes. I’m not ashamed of it. I did what I wanted, and I never hurt anyone. Finally, every time I said: I’m going to go after something, I made sure that it wouldn’t hurt anyone.

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Claude Lelouch: “I am a reporter of life, I am a life director more than a director”