Carrière, Jean-Claude 1931-

views updated

Carrière, Jean-Claude 1931-


Born September 17, 1931, in Languedoc, France; son of Felix and Alice Carrière; married, December 27, 1952; wife's name Nicole (a painter and interior decorator; deceased, 2002); married Nahal Tajadod (a writer); children: (first marriage) Iris; (second marriage) Kiana.


Home—Paris, France. Agent—Writers Guild of America, East, 555 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.


Screenwriter. Director, with Pierre Etaix, of Rupture, 1961, and Happy Anniversary, 1962, and of the short film La pince a ongles (The Nail Clippers), 1968. Actor in films, including Diary of a Chambermaid, 1964, and L'Alliance, 1971. Head of the French film school FEMIS, 1986—; conductor of writing and directing workshops.


Academy Award for best short film, 1962, for Happy Anniversary; Academy Award nomination for best screenplay, 1973, for The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, 1978, for That Obscure Object of Desire, and 1989, for The Unbearable Lightness of Being; best picture prize, Venice International Film Festival, 1967, for Belle de jour; British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards, best original screenplay, 1973, for The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, and best adapted screenplay, 1988, for The Unbearable Lightness of Being; cowinner of the best picture prize, Cannes Film Festival, and Academy Award for best foreign film, both 1979, both for The Tin Drum; Kanbar Award for screenwriting, San Francisco International Film Festival; Laurel Award for Screen Writing Achievement, Writers Guild of America, 2000.



The Diary of a Chambermaid (adapted from Octave Mirbeau's novel; released in France as Le Journal d'une femme de chambre; Speva, 1964), Seuil, 1971.

Belle de jour (adapted from Joseph Kessel's novel; Allied Artists, 1968), translated from the unpublished French manuscript by Robert Adkinson, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1971.

The Milky Way (also released as La Voie lactee), United Artists, 1969.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (released in France as Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie), Twentieth Century-Fox, 1972.

The Phantom of Liberty (released in France as Le Fantome de la liberte), Greenwich Productions, 1974.

That Obscure Object of Desire (adapted from Pierre Louys's novel La Femme et le pantin; released in France as Cet Obscur Objet du desir), First Artists, 1977.


(With Pierre Etaix) The Suitor (released in France as Le Soupirant), CAPAC, 1963.

(With Louis Malle) Viva Maria!, United Artists, 1965.

(With Louis Malle) The Thief of Paris (based on the story by Georges Darien; released in France as Le Voleur), Lopert, 1967.

(With Pierre Etaix) Yoyo, CAPAC, 1967.

La piscine (title means "The Swimming Pool"), SNC, 1968.

(With Jacques Deray) Borsalino, Paramount, 1970.

(With Christian De Chalonge) L'Alliance (adapted from a book by Carrière; also see below), CAPAC, 1970.

(With Milos Forman, John Guare, and John Klein) Taking Off, Universal, 1971.

(With Marco Ferreri) Liza (adapted from Ennio Flaiano's novel), Lira Films, 1972.

(With Jacques Deray and Ian McLellan Hunter) The Outside Man (released in France as Un Homme est mort), United Artists, 1973.

(With Juan Buñuel, Philippe Nuridzany, Pierre Maintigneux, and Clement Biddle Wood) Leonor (adapted from a story by Ludwig Tieck), New Line, 1977.

(With Tonino Guerra) A Butterfly on the Shoulder (also released as Un Papillon sur l'epaule), Gaumont, 1978.

(With Claude Pinoteau and Charles Israel) The Angry Man (released in France as L'Homme en colere), United Artists, 1979.

(With Franz Seitz and Volker Schlöndorff) The Tin Drum (adapted from Gunter Grass's novel; released in Germany as Die Blechtrommel), New World, 1979.

(With Anne-Marie Mieville and Jean-Luc Godard) Every Man for Himself (released in France as Sauve qui peut la vie), New Yorker Films, 1980.

(With Volker Schlöndorff, Margarethe von Trotta, and Kai Hermann) Circle of Deceit (adapted from a novel by Nicolas Born; released in Germany as Die Faelschung), United Artists Classics, 1982.

(With Rene Gainville) The Associate, Quartet, 1982.

(With Daniel Vigne) The Return of Martin Guerre, European International, 1983.

(With Andrzej Wajda and others) Danton (adapted from Stanislawa Przybyszewska's play The Danton Affair), Triumph, 1983.

Swann in Love (adapted from portions of Marcel Proust's novel A la recherche du temps perdu), Orion Classics, 1984.

(With Jerome Diamant-Berger and Olivier Assayas) L'Unique (title means "The One and Only"), Revcom, 1986.

(With Nagisa Oshima) Max mon amour (title means "Max My Love"), Greenwich Films, 1986.

(With Peter Fleischmann) Les Exploits d'un jeune Don Juan (adapted from Guillaume Apollinaire's novel; title means "The Exploits of a Young Don Juan"), AAA, 1987.

(With Philip Kaufman) The Unbearable Lightness of Being (adapted from Milan Kundera's novel), Orion, 1988.

(With Nicolas Klotz) The Bengali Night (adapted from Mircea Eliade's novel La Nuit Bengali), Gaumont, 1988.

(With Holland, Andrzej Wajda, and Edward Zebrowski) Les Possedes (adapted from Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel The Possessed), Gaumont, 1988.

(With Peter Fleischmann) Hard to Be a God (adapted from a novel by Arkadii Strugatskii and Boris Strugatskii; released in Germany as Es ist nicht leicht ein gott zu sein), 1988.

Valmont (adapted from Choderlos de Laclos's novel Les Liaisons dangereuses), Orion, 1989.

(With Jean-Paul Rappeneau) Cyrano de Bergerac (adapted from Edmond Rostand's play; released by Orion Classics, 1990), Ramsay (Paris, France), c. 1990.

(With Peter Brook and Marie-Helene Estienne) The Mahabharata (adapted from the Sanskrit epic; also see below), Reiner Moritz, 1990.

(With Louis Malle) May Fools (released in France as Milou en mai), Orion Classics, 1990, published as Milou in May, Faber & Faber (New York, NY), 1990.

(With Hector Babenco) At Play in the Fields of the Lord (adapted from Peter Matthiessen's novel), Saul Zaentz, 1991.

Le Retour de Casanova, AMLF, 1992.

La Controverse de Valladolid (for television), La Sept, 1992.

(With other) Associations de bienfaiteurs (television mini-series), France 3, 1995.

The Night and the Moment, Miramax, 1995.

La Duchesse de Langeais (for television), France 3, 1995.

(With Jean-Paul Rappeneau and Nina Companéez) The Horseman on the Roof, Miramax Zoë, 1995.

Une femme explosive (for television), France 2, 1996.

(With Anne Roumanoff) Golden Boy, Trinacra Films, 1996.

(With Volker Schlöndorff) The Ogre, Kino International, 1996.

(With Larry Gross) Chinese Box, Trimark Pictures, 1997.

(With Jorge Amat, Juan Luis Buñuel, and Serge Silberman) Les Paradoxes de Buñuel, Les Acacias, 1997.

Clarissa (for television), France 2, 1998.

(With Francis Reusser) La Guerre dans le Haut Pays, Rézo Films, 1999.

(With Joyce Buñuel) Salsa, United International Pictures, 2000.

(With Jean-Daniel Verhaeghe) Bérénice (for television), La Sept-Arte, 2000.

Lettre d'une inconnue (for television), France 3, 2001.

Ruy Blas (for television), France 3, 2002.

(With Jonathan Glazer and Milo Addica) Birth, Fine Line Features, 2004.

Le Père Goriot (for television), AB Distribution, 2004.

(With Claude Allègre) Galilée ou L'amour de Dieu (for television), AB Distribution, 2005.

Le Rêve (documentary for television), Arte, 2006.

(With Milos Forman) Goya's Ghost, Samuel Goldwyn, 2006.

Ulzhan, Rézo Pictures, 2007.

Also author, with Pierre Etaix, of Rupture, 1961, and Happy Anniversary, 1962, and La Bataille d'Hernani, La, 2002.


L'Aide-Memoire (play; produced in Paris, France, 1968, produced on Broadway as The Little Black Book, 1972), translation by Jerome Kilty, Samuel French (New York, NY), c. 1973.

Le Client (two-act play; title means "The Customer"), produced in Paris, 1971.

The Conference of the Birds, Dramatic Publishing (Chicago, IL), c. 1982.

(With Peter Brook and Marius Constant) La Tragedie de Carmen (opera; abridgement of Georges Bizet's opera Carmen; produced on Broadway, 1983), Centre International de Creations Theatrales (Paris, France), c. 1981.

(With Peter Brook) The Mahabharata (play; adapted from the Sanskrit epic; produced at Brooklyn Academy of Music's New Wave Festival, 1987), Harper (New York, NY), c. 1987.

La Terrasse (one-act play), first produced in France, 1997, Actes Sud (Arles, France), 1997.

Also author, with Colin Higgins, of Harold and Maude, 1971. Author of adaptations of plays, including Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard and William Shakespeare's Timon of Athens, Measure for Measure, and The Tempest.


Lezard, R. Laffont (Paris, France), 1956.

L'Alliance, R. Laffont (Paris, France), 1963.

(With Guy Bechtel) Dictionnaire de la betise et des erreurs de jugement, R. Laffont (Paris, France), c. 1965.

Le pari, R. Laffont (Paris, France), 1973.

(With Guy Bechtel) Le Livres des Bizarres, R. Laffont (Paris, France), 1981.

Les petits mots inconvenants, Balland (Paris, France), c. 1981.

(With Natalie Zemon Davis) Le retour de Martin Guerre, R. Laffont (Paris, France), c. 1982.

Credo, Balland (Paris, France), c. 1983.

(With Jean Audouze and Michel Casse) Conversations sur l'invisible, Le Pré aux clercs (Paris, France), 1987.

Anthologie de l'humour 1900, Editions 1900, c. 1988.

La paix des braver, Le Pré aux clercs (Paris, France), 1988.

Exercice di Scenario, Fondation Europenne des Metiers de l'image et du Son (Paris, France), 1990.

La controverse de Valladolid, Le Pré aux clercs (Paris, France), 1992, published as The Controversy of Valladolid, translated by Richard Nelson, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 2005.

Simon le Mage, Plon (Paris, France), 1993.

The Secret Language of Film, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 1994.

(With the Dalai Lama) Violence and Compassion: Dialogues on Life Today, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1996.

(With Jean Audouze) Regards sur le visible, Plon (Paris, France), 1996.

Le film qu'on ne voit pas, Plon (Paris, France), 1996.

(With Umberto Eco, Jean Delumeau, and Stephen Jay Gould) Entretuens sur la Fin des Temps, Fayard (Paris, France), 1998, published as Conversations about the End of Time, Fromm (New York, NY), 2001.

(With others) Federica Matta: Les Voyages de la Sirene, Atlantica (Biarritz, France), 2000.

Buñuel x Carrière: Cuadernos de Dibujo, Gobierno de Aragon, Departmento de Cultura y Educacion (Teruel, France), 2001.

Dictionnaire Amoureux de l'Inde, Plon (Paris, France), 2001.

In Search of the Mahabharata: Notes on Travels in India with Peter Brook, 1982-1985, translated by Aruna Vasudev, Macmillan India (New Dehli, India), 2001.

Les années d'utopie: 1968-1969, Plon (Paris, France), 2003.

Einstein, s'il vous plaît, O. Jacob (Paris, France), 2005, published as Please, Mr. Einstein, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.

Fragilité, O. Jacob (Paris, France), 2006.

(With Milos Forman) Les fantomes de Goya (novel), Plon (Paris, France), 2007.


Known for his intelligent, witty productions, Jean-Claude Carrière is an acclaimed writer who has collaborated with some of the most distinguished artists of the stage and screen. His frequent coauthor status led Joe Morgenstern to call him "the unsung dramatist of our time" in New York Times Book Review. Although he has shown his versatility and talent by working with a range of filmmakers from throughout the world, he is probably best known for his several French collaborations with Spanish surrealist director Luis Buñuel. Carrière first teamed with the director in 1964 to write The Diary of a Chambermaid, a reworking of the Octave Mirbeau novel that earlier inspired Jean Renoir's film of the same title. Carrière and Buñuel collaborated again in 1968 with Belle de jour, an eccentric production about a bored homemaker who begins working as a prostitute. The woman soon meets a variety of unusual clients, including a young gangster sporting metal dentures. The film is usually ranked among the best works of both Buñuel and lead actress Catherine Deneuve.

"With Buñuel," Carrière told Morgenstern, "the writing always came last. Every day, we'd begin by acting out a given scene: What's happening in it? Who enters? What does he do, what does he say? I'd bring a few pieces of paper with me, but I'd have to hide them while we worked. Then he'd go to sleep at eight or nine o'clock, and I'd stay up alone, trying to write the scene we'd acted out." Discussing the collaboration on the Slant Web site, with interviewer Fernando F. Croce, Carrière remarked: "He taught me how to oppose him, how to disagree. And from the second film until the end, it was a close relationship. Full of friendship and family. Working with Buñuel was living with Buñuel." Carrière added that "when I think back of our time together, I'm filled with nostalgia."

Carrière and Buñuel next worked together on films that are largely episodic, a structure that allowed for greater expression of Buñuel's surrealist perspective. The Milky Way, the duo's 1969 venture, recounts the exploits of two men on a religious pilgrimage. During their travels the two pilgrims meet various eccentrics, and also come upon a pagan ritual. In The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, an Academy Award-winning film written by Carrière and Buñuel, a band of hapless rich people wander through restaurants and homes in a vain effort to enjoy a meal. On one occasion, their dining experience is disturbed by the presence of a corpse. Another time, a woman among the party is regaled by a soldier who insists that he once dreamt of her. The film's mocking of bourgeois behavior and conventions found favor with many filmgoers and reviewers. New York Times critic Vincent Canby called The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie "brilliant," and "extraordinarily funny."

Carrière and Buñuel collaborated again in 1974 with The Phantom of Liberty, and again in 1977 with That Obscure Object of Desire, a comedy about one man's sexual obsession for a young woman. In an attempt to show the protagonist's singleminded ignorance, Carrière and Buñuel alternated two different actresses as the pursued woman, with the hero never noticing the difference. While some viewers were confused by the dual casting of the female lead, many more found it yet another example of director Buñuel's unconventional filmmaking talent. The film marked Carrière's final venture with Buñuel, who died in 1983. In his memoir, My Last Sigh, Buñuel referred to Carrière as his most intimate collaborator. "The writer closest to me," he declared, "… is undoubtedly Carrière."

Although he is frequently lauded for his collaborations with Buñuel in the 1960s and 1970s, Carrière also worked on many other popular, if not critically acclaimed, films during those years. In 1965, for instance, he teamed with filmmaker Louis Malle on Viva Maria!, a musical comedy-adventure pairing celebrated French actresses Bridgitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau as revolutionaries in Mexico. Carrière rejoined Malle in writing The Thief of Paris, which featured popular French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo as an accomplished jewel thief. Carrière also collaborated on the script of Borsalino, in which Belmondo is cast with matinee idol Alain Delon as two gangsters in 1930s Marseilles.

In the late 1970s, after Buñuel began concentrating on his memoirs, Carrière began to establish himself as a leading screenwriter independent of the renowned Spanish filmmaker. In 1979 he worked on director Volker Schlöndorff's adaptation of Gunter Grass's novel TheTin Drum, which tells the story of a young boy who stops growing in order to protest the wartime horrors of the adult world. The next year Carrière contributed to Jean-Luc Godard's Every Man for Himself, and in 1983 he collaborated with Andrzej Wajda and others on Danton. The film—which focused on the final days of the title character, a French Revolution hero who was executed by his former ally—was lauded by Time critic Richard Schickel as "a film of high dramatic power." The Tin Drum, Every Man for Himself, and Danton all enjoyed considerable prominence on the international-film circuit, thus gaining greater recognition for Carrière.

Recalling his work with Buñuel, Schlöndorff, Godard, and others, Carrière observed that a screenwriter must willingly humble himself to ensure a successful collaboration. "You go past the interest of the director and of the writer and think only of the film," he told Croce. "You aim at a third person, which is the work itself. I never, ever try to defend my ego. The screenwriter has to know that, whatever he has—talent, persistence, professional vision—he's doing work for somebody else, the director. He needs humility, to learn to be invisible. He needs to realize the director is the auteur, and once that's been established, the work flows much more easily."

Carrière also teamed with filmmaker Daniel Vigne in writing The Return of Martin Guerre, a popular 1983 historical drama about a man who claims to be the long-lost resident of an impoverished village. He moves in with the wife of the missing man and becomes both a model husband and a prominent figure in the community. When he demands a share of the profits from his family's land, however, new suspicions arise about his identity, and a court case ensues. Newsweek critic David Ansen noted that The Return of Martin Guerre "has as many twists and ambiguities and surprises as a good suspenseful thriller."

Among Carrière's other significant works from the 1980s is The Unbearable Lightness of Being, director Philip Kaufman's rendering of Milan Kundera's non-linear philosophical novel. Set in Czechoslovakia around the time of the 1968 Soviet invasion, the film concerns Tomas, an arrogant yet charming brain surgeon and womanizer, and his relationships with Tereza, his sweet, small-town wife, and Sabina, his sophisticated lover. This production, though largely acknowledged for its eroticism, also received attention for showing uncommon subtlety in its considerations of love, sex, freedom, commitment, and politics.

Aside from his screenwriting ventures, which also include Valmont, Cyrano de Bergerac, May Fools, At Play in the Fields of the Lord, The Ogre, and Birth, Carrière has collaborated with celebrated stage director Peter Brook. Brook has impressed many—and alienated others—with his unconventional renderings of such classics as William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure and Georges Bizet's opera Carmen. Carrière collaborated with Brook and Marius Constant on the latter work, retitled La Tragedie de Carmen, which significantly scaled-down Bizet's original conception and transformed the opera into a gripping, fast-paced expression of love and death. Newsweek contributor Alan Rich was among the production's many enthusiasts, deeming it "a dazzling piece of theater craft." Carrière also teamed with Brook on The Mahabharata, an ambitious stage adaptation of India's Sanskrit epic, a complex work that is roughly comparable to the Christian Bible. This staging, which ran approximately nine hours, was recognized by Newsweek critic Jack Kroll as "a triumph of sustained inspiration and high intelligence." A film version of significantly reduced length was released in 1990.

Carrière described his working relationship with Brook to Margaret Croyden in the New York Times Book Review: "Peter changed my life. He showed me a new way of working. I never had such a luxury, to have such access to a director. I call him, he comes; I read him my work on the telephone, he listens. He is totally there. But that does not mean that he is not hard to please." Carrière noted that in contrast to working in film, where, as Croyden described it, scenes are "carefully planned and immediately set," working with Brook in the theater involves constant revision of material. "From the very beginning, Peter gives criticism and proposes changes. Then, all of a sudden, some actors come; they unroll a carpet and try some of the text which is not even totally finished. Slowly, the direction starts and I'm still there writing until the very last moment, at least until fifteen performances after the opening." Brook also had Carrière audition with the actors, reading each part. "The purpose," Carrière explained to Croyden, "was to understand what I had written. If I couldn't do it, I was obliged to admit that the scene did not work. It was devilish of Peter, but extremely helpful."

Speaking of his collaborator in an interview with Morgenstern, Brook commented that "there's a strong connection between the quality of the work and the quality of the person. [Carrière's] a very passionate person, a Renaissance man with a passion for life in all its forms. At the same time, he's very disciplined, highly organized, with an encyclopedic mind—he's working on a book about nuclear physics, and he just brought out a book of pornographic limericks. So you have a man who does an enormous amount, who travels a lot and lives a very vivid life." Carrière remarked to Variety contributor Tobias Grey that, out of necessity, the collaborations with Brook brought forth his best efforts. "Once you go to work for someone like Buñuel or Peter Brook, it's like going to the finals of the Olympic Games," he stated. "You must be in perfect shape, totally devoted to what you do and as acute as possible. If not, the other will notice immediately that you are not up to it and you will be eliminated."

In addition to his work on screenplays and stage productions, Carrière is the author of several acclaimed books. In The Secret Language of Film, he explores the art of screenwriting, recalls his association with such illustrious directors as Jacques Tati, Malle, and Buñuel, and discusses the shortcomings of modern filmmaking. "Part work diary, part commonplace book, part polemic, Carrière's book is a defence of a young art form, now in greater danger than the older forms it was once expected to replace," commented Paul Ryan in New Statesman & Society.

In Please, Mr. Einstein, a fictional work about theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, Carrière "sets out to make the elegant beauty of Einstein's ideas manifest to lay readers," observed a Publishers Weekly critic. Set in Central Europe at an undisclosed time, the book concerns an anonymous young woman who walks into a mysterious building that houses the famed scientist's office. The woman finds Einstein still hard at work, decades after his death, and begins to interview him about his work and his place in history. "The accessible dialogue … turns relativity into the explanatory key for everything from a bouncing basketball to the receding galaxies in the night sky," noted Booklist contributor Bryce Christensen. "In its uncounted hours of conversation," wrote Dennis Overbye in the New York Times Book Review, "Please, Mr. Einstein touches down lightly and charmingly on some of the thorniest philosophical consequences of Einstein's genius and, by extension, the scientific preoccupations of the 20th century—the nature of reality, the fate of causality, the comprehensibility of nature, the limits of the mind—while scrolling through Einstein's life."

Storytellers, Carrière explained to Morgenstern, are essential to any society, "just like bakers, workers, peasants—no more, but no less. There's a beautiful phrase in The Mahabharata where Vyasa, the legendary author, says: ‘You must listen to stories. It's pleasant, and sometimes it makes you better.’" Morgenstern assessed that "there are screenwriters, who write movies, and real writers, who write books. Carrière is both, an intellectual who knows how to entertain."



Buñuel, Luis, My Last Sigh, translated by Abigail Israel, Knopf (New York, NY), 1983.


Booklist, September 15, 1994, Benjamin Segedin, review of The Secret Language of Film, p. 96; December 15, 1995, Donna Seaman, review of Violence and Compassion: Dialogues on Life Today, p. 669; June 1, 2006, Bryce Christensen, review of Please, Mr. Einstein, p. 36.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2006, review of Please, Mr. Einstein, p. 739.

Library Journal, September 15, 2006, review of Please, Mr. Einstein, p. 46.

New Statesman & Society, March 17, 1995, Paul Ryan, review of The Secret Language of Film, p. 40.

Newsweek, June 27, 1983, David Anson, review of The Return of Martin Guerre, p. 80; November 21, 1983, Alan Rich, review of La Tragedie de Carmen, p. 105; September 21, 1987, Jack Kroll, review of The Mahabharata, pp. 74-75.

New York Sun, September 13, 2006, Bruce Bennett, "Jean-Claude Carrière Comes to Brooklyn."

New York Times, October 14, 1972, Vincent Canby, review of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.

New York Times Book Review, October 4, 1987, Margaret Croyden, "Peter Brook Creates a Nine-Hour Epic," p. 36; April 17, 1988, Joe Morgen- stern, "The Great Collaborator," p. 28; November 26, 2006, Dennis Overbye, "What Spacetime Is It?," review of Please, Mr. Einstein, p. 8.

Publishers Weekly, July 18, 1994, review of The Secret Language of Film, p. 228; November 13, 1995, review of Violence and Compassion, p. 53; May 29, 2006, review of Please, Mr. Einstein, p. 32.

Spectator, February 25, 2006, Nicholas Fearn, "Where Time Has Had a Stop," review of Please, Mr. Einstein, p. 37.

Time, September 26, 1983, Richard Schickel, review of Danton, p. 76.

Variety, March 31, 2003, Tobias Grey, "Carrière's Writing Career Spans Buñuel to Kidman," p. 20.


Slant, (May 1, 2007), Fernando F. Croce, "The Discreet Influence of Jean-Claude Carrière."

About this article

Carrière, Jean-Claude 1931-

Updated About content Print Article