Jean- Claude Carrière

Jean- Claude Carrière

A farmer's son who was born and raised in a small village in France, Carriere moved to Paris in the waning days of World War II to pursue his academic studies. By the end of the 1950s, he had published his first novel ("Le Lezard" 1957) and had been introduced to the world of film by Pierre Etaix, with whom he formed his first collaborative relationship. Etaix was a protege of Jacques Tati and Carriere was hired to write the novelizations of such Tati films as "M. Hulot's Holiday" and "Mon Oncle." As the 60s progressed Carriere moved into filmmaking in tandem with Etaix, co-producing, co-writing and co-directing short films including the 1962 Oscar-winner "Heureux Anniversaire/Happy Anniversary." Two years later, Carriere began his notable working relationship with Bunuel, then in his 60s and considered to be on the decline. Their pairing re-invigorated the surrealism of the older man, infusing his work with irony, paradox and a renewed sense of comedy. "The Diary of a Chambermaid," a remake of Jean Renoir's 1946 original, was a searing look at the bourgeoisie in the fascist milieu of 1939 as filtered through the eyes of the family maid (played by Jeanne Moreau). "Belle du Jour" was a wry examination of an uptight newlywed (Catherine Deneuve) who finds a curious liberation in working a day shift at a brothel. Their symbiotic affiliation perhaps reached its apotheosis with "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie," and their final effort, "That Obscure Object of Desire," both of which garnered Academy Award nominations for their screenplays.After Bunuel's death, Carriere forged a similar working relationship in the theater with Peter Brook. "The Tragedy of Carmen," their reworking of Bizet's opera "Carmen," proved a hit in its Paris and New York stagings and was captured for posterity on film in 1983. The duo later worked on "The Conference of the Birds" in 1982 and in 1987 on the formidable staging of "The Mahabharta" (filmed for British television in 1989). If Carriere had only worked with Bunuel and Brook, his place in history would be assured, yet those films and plays represent only a part of his astonishing output. Carriere twice collaborated with Louis Malle, most notably on "Le Voleur/The Thief of Paris" (1967). In 1966. He was introduced to Milos Forman who later tapped the writer for assistance on "Taking Off" (1971) and "Valmont" (1989), which some found a more faithful rendering of Choderlos de Laclos' "Les Liaisons dangereuses." Carriere also contributed to the popular French comedy "L'Associe/The Associate" and teamed with Jean-Luc Godard for the somewhat overrated "Sauve qui puet la vie/Every Man for Himself" (both 1979). The screenwriter also proved his mettle joining Volker Schlondorff, Franz Seitz and Gunter Grass in adapting Grass' award-winning novel "The Tin Drum" (also 1979) to film. One of the most memorable films of the 70s and an Oscar-winner for Best Foreign-Language Film, "The Tin Drum" focused on a young boy who refused to grow up when the Nazis assumed power and included one memorable sequence after another. Yet, the film has been subjected to attacks on grounds of obscenity by right-wing groups over one suggestive scene of a sexual nature.The 80s saw Carriere reach audiences with such diverse adaptations as "Le Retour de Martin Guerre/The Return of Martin Guerre" and "Danton" (both 1982), which both starred Gerard Depardieu. The former, co-written with director Daniel Vigne, earned a Cesar for its mystery of a man returning from war and claiming to be the title character while the latter allowed Andrzej Wajda to draw parallels between France's Reign of Terror and contemporary Poland. He and Brook were two of the credited screenwriters of the opulent but bloodless Proust adaptation "Swann in Love" (1984), directed by Schlondorff. Carriere shared his third Oscar nomination in 1988 for screenwriting with Philip Kaufman for their affecting version of Milan Kundera's erotic and powerful novel "The Unbearable Lightness of Being."Carriere found a new partner in Jean-Paul Rappeneau with whom he collaborated on what has been called the definitive film version of Rostand's classic "Cyrano de Bergerac" (1990), which showcased Depardieu's towering lead performance. Although he stumbled somewhat with the English-language "At Play in the Fields of the Lord" (1991 -- generally conceded to be an unfilmable work), the screenwriter was back on surer ground with his second teaming with Rappeneau on the lavish period drama "Le Hussard sur le toit/The Horseman on the Roof" (1995) as well as Schlondorff's "The Ogre" (1996), an often overlooked gem. His last produced screenplay to date, "Chinese Box" (1998), though, was another disappointment with an almost anachronistic juxtaposition of a triangular romance set against the waning days of British rule in Hong Kong. Jean-Claude Carrière died on February 8, 2021 in Paris, France at the age of 89.