Jean-Jacques Annaud

Jean-Jacques Annaud

Annaud began collecting cameras and projectors at an early age, studied at the Vaugirard film technical school and later IDHEC and first made educational films for the French Army while fulfilling his mandatory military requirement in Africa. He subsequently became an acclaimed and extremely prolific director of TV commercials, making over 500 during the late 1960s and early 70s and acquiring the clout to venture into features. His debut, "Black and White in Color" (1976)--sparked by his compassion for the people of Africa during his Army days and wittily satirizing a group of French colonialists around the Ivory Coast circa 1914--though unsuccessful in his own country was a surprise hit in the USA, winning the Oscar as Best Foreign Film. His follow-up film, "Coup de tete/Hot Head" (1979), amusingly debunked the world of professional soccer and gave him a popular success in his native land.For "Quest for Fire" (1981), a grueling portrait of primitive man that earned him two Cesar awards, Annaud invented four primitive tribes and then, with the help of the late Anthony Burgess and renowned anthropologist Desmond Morris, invented a culture--from body language to dress to implements--for each tribe. One tribe's discovery and use of fire to vanquish its enemies perfectly presaged modern man's exploiting his advantage whenever possible. His first English-language film, "The Name of the Rose" (1986), adapted from the Umberto Eco novel, introduced him to the world of the box-office star (Sean Connery) and the big budget ($18 million). Its tale of intrigue and murder in a medieval monastery continued his collaboration with screenwriter Gerard Brach which has begun on "Quest for Fire." Brach would also script "The Bear" (1988) and share screenwriting credit for "The Lover" (1992) with Annaud."The Bear," a cub's coming of age story told from the cub's point of view, pitted sympathetic beast against villainous man, imparting a real sense of nature's magnificence in the bargain. Annaud spent nearly six years finding the right animals (including a 2000-pound Kodiak bear named Bart) and training them for their "roles" in the film. For his film version of Marguerite Duras' novel "The Lover," Annaud revisited European colonialism and its prejudices, brilliantly recreating a 1929 Saigon backdrop for the steamy romance between a young French girl and a wealthy Chinese man. The passion he acquired for Vietnam during "The Lover" insured that he would return to an Asian setting for a subsequent movie.With "Wings of Courage" (1995), Annaud became the first director to shoot a feature in the 3D IMAX format, telling in spectacular fashion the true story of a downed aviator who trekked back to civilization across six Andes mountain peaks in 1930. Then it was East meets West once again in "Seven Years in Tibet" (1997). Annaud's film starred Brad Pitt as Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer, who escaped from a British prisoner of war camp during World War II by climbing over the Himalayas into Tibet, where he served as advisor to the young Dalai Lama while discovering Buddhism. Thwarted in his attempts to film in northern India, Annaud spared no expense rebuilding Tibet in Argentina, putting every bit of the movie's $70 million budget on the screen.