Biography of Claude Autant-Lara (1901-2000)

Director and designer of French cinema born in Luzarches (Val d'Oise, France) on August 5, 1903 and died in Antibes (France) on February 5, 2000.

Son of architect Edouard Autant and the actress Louise Lara - who was a partner of the Comédie Française-, inherited from parents interest in decoration and dramatic vocation. Both parents had founded "Art et Action", an avant-garde theatre that would also affect, decisively, in the intellectual formation and laboratory in the first steps of the working life of the future filmmaker.

Full childhood, as a result of the outbreak of World War I, Autant-Lara had to go into exile in the United Kingdom, as the political ideas of the mother put in danger at the family. Thus, studies that the small Claude had begun in France concluded in Mill Hill, London School.

At the time, showed no sign of possessing great skills for Visual Arts, so, on his return to France, joined the school of applied arts and later, undertook studies in fine arts. He met, then, a cinematic decorator who began collaborating, and thus started became interested in the world of cinema.

Yet it had failed the eighteen years of age when he signed his first job as decorator of scenarios, made during the filming of Carnaval des vérités (truths, 1919 Carnival), French filmmaker Marcel L'herbier (1888-1979). From then on, he collaborated on the sets of films shot by the Director until, in the mid-1920s, Jean Renoir (1894-1979) was set in their work and asked that it takes place the decorations of his famous film Nana (1926).

Already fully introduced in the film industry, Claude Autant-Lara began to reconcile this work of decorator with the completion of his early films. His opera prima was an avant-garde short film entitled Fait divers (1923), whose main interest is, currently, in the figure of the protagonist: soon celebrated writer Antonin Artaud (1896-1948), and already by the then leading actor, formed precisely in the theatrical laboratory "Art et Action".

The great film director René Clair (1898-1981) repaired in the worth of this first work of Autant-Lara and hired him as Assistant Director. While working for it, the young filmmaker of Luzarches prepared its second taxiway, Construire a feu (build a fire, 1928), a work of intermediate length in which continued experimenting, but now with the technical means. Autant-Lara was used, in effect, in the making of this film a target anamorphic lens hypergonar who had invented, in 1927, French physicist Henri Chétien-based. Twenty-five years later, this objective anamorphic employed for the first time by Autant-Lara should be made fashionable by 20th Century Fox under the name of Cinemascope.

At the beginning of the 30's, French filmmaker settled in Hollywood to make French versions of some American tapes which had been very successful in the screens of the United States - in particular, the films of the great actor, director and screenwriter Buster Keaton (1895-1966)-. He stayed two years in California (1930-1932) and, on his return to France, he shot his first feature film, chives (chives, 1933), a sort of opera snorts based on a controversial screenplay by the great writer Jacques Prévert (1900-1977). This work, which is censored by their producers, constituted a genuine failure which took much to recover Autant-Lara, thereafter relegated to the background in the world of cinema.

He continued, however, shooting several films that went unnoticed for the critics and the public; until that, already in the next decade, in full occupation of France by the German troops, it garnered a resounding success with Le Mariage de chiffon (cloth, 1942 marriage) and, above all, Douce (sweet, 1943), starring Odette Joyeux. With this latest work, which dealt with harshness and courage the hypocrisy of family life (and, in particular, the families of the upper classes), Autant-Lara began to erect in the visible head of the anti-conformist cinema, radically opposed to any kind of censorship.

It renewed its image of critical and controversial artist with other films of great interest, among which mention Le diable au corps (the devil in the body, 1947). But in the 1950s, the Nouvelle Vague criticism dismissed le bourgeois and noted that, after his alleged attacks on the society of his time, in his work a strange complacency in these vices and defects of bourgeois.

Since then, Autant-Lara continued to perform, in general, films of lesser interest, although occasionally rolled any other tape memorable, as La Traversée de Paris (La Traversée de Paris, 1956) or Tu ne point nuts (do not murder, 1960), work - the latter - in which recovered its old wry to boldly tackle the problem of conscientious objection.

In the last stage of his career, Claude Autant-Lara made some filming for television. Proposed to occupy a Chair at the Académie française, it was also interested in politics and, in 1989, almost nonagenarian, he was elected member of Parliament for the national front.

In his role as director, Autant-Lara attempted to always work with the same team, formed the writers Juan Aurenche and Pierre Bost, the composer René Cloërec, the Decorator Max Bouy, director of photography Philippe Agostini and Ghislaine Auboin, wife of the director himself, with which he collaborated regularly as screenwriter and Assistant Director.


As artistic director

Nana (1926), by Jean Renoir.

As supporting actor

Nana (1926), by Jean Renoir

As a director

Faits divers (1923). Boul is met au verre (1928). Construire a feu (1930). Ciboulette (1933). The mysterious Mr. Davis (1936). L'Affaire du courrier de Lyon (1937). Fric-Frac (1939). Le mariage de chiffon (1942). Lettres d'amour (1942). Douce (1943). Sylvie et le Fantôme (1945). Le diable au corps (1946). L'Auberge rouge (1951). Le Blé in herbe (1953). Le Bon Dieu sans confession (1953). Le rouge et le noir (1954). Marguerite nuit (1955). La Traversée de Paris (1956). Le joueur (1958). In cas de malheur (1958). The La jument Verte (1959). Les regates de San Francisco (1959). Le bois des amants (1960). Your ne nuts point (1960). Her story of murderer (1963). Le journal d'une femme Blanc (1965). Le plus vieux métier du monde (1967). Le franciscain de Bourges (1967). Les Patates (1969).