Claude Lelouch

Claude Lelouch

Lelouch had spent the earliest years of his childhood hiding from the Nazis alongside his mother. They were captured and sent to the Dachau concentration camp three months before the end of World War II. Both mother and son were liberated and returned to Paris, where they were reunited with Lelouch's father. Lelouch was an indifferent student and he failed his entrance exams into higher education. He father agreed to finance his cinematic dreams as long as the result showed promise. Traveling with his father, Lelouch made several amateur documentaries, leading to "Le Mal du siecle" (1954), a parody of war as seen through the games at a fair, that won the amateur film division of the Cannes Film Festival.After making short films while serving in the military, Lelouch established Les Films 13, a production company, and produced, co-wrote, directed and appeared in his first feature "Le Propre de l'homme" (1960). It was a disastrous debut and he spent the next two years making backdrop short films for juke boxes (to run while music was playing) in order to pay off his debts. By 1963, Lelouch was back making films, and in 1966, he won international acclaim with "Un Homme et une femme/A Man and a Woman," which starred Anouk Aimee and Jean-Paul Belmondo as recently widowed people who find each other and love, only to have it all slip away when the woman cannot fully bury her deceased husband. Lelouch won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for his work (almost unheard of for a foreign-language film) and landed a ten picture distribution deal with United Artists as well. His subsequent work has never again achieved the international notice of "Un Homme et une femme," but he has been applauded for the spontaneity of his work and the freedom of movement of his style. Lelouch has often operated the camera himself and pioneered the use of compact, light equipment. His films have run the gamut from the well-received "La Bonne annee" (1973), in which a jewel thief and an antique dealer romance, to the disastrous "Another Man, Another Chance" (1977), which starred James Caan and Genevieve Bujold in a story of the romance of an American and a French widow in the Old West. Lelouch reunited Aimee and Belmondo in 1986 in "Un Homme et une femme: Vingt ans deja/A Man and a Woman: 20 Years Later," in which the star-crossed lovers, she now a producer, he now a director, meet again. In 1995, Warner Bros. distributed Lelouch's "Les Miserables," which moved the setting of the Victor Hugo classic to World War II, and starred Belmondo. While it failed to spark at the box office, it received favorable critical notice and earned a Golden Globe Award as Best Foreign Film.