Aurenche, Jean, and Pierre Bost
AURENCHE, Jean, and Pierre BOST
AURENCHE. Writer. Nationality: French. Born: Pierrelatte, 11 September 1904. Career: Worked for Etienne Damour advertising agency, then for the theatre director Charles Dullin; 1933—first film as actor and writer, Monsieur Cordon, and as writer and director, Pirates du Rhône; 1948—collaborated with Jean Anouilh on play Humulus le muet; collaborator on TV series Molière pour rire et pour pleurer, 1973, and Lucien Leuwen, 1973. Awards: César awards for Let Joy Reign Supreme, 1975; Le Juge et l'assassin, 1976; and The Northern Star, 1982. Died: September, 1992.
BOST. Writer. Nationality: French. Born: Lasalle, 5 September 1901. Career: 1924–27—journalist, Gazette de France, and editor of Marianne from 1938 and of Marie Claire; 1927–60—Secretary of the Senate; playwright and novelist from the 1920s, and writer for films from 1939, and for TV series Molière pour rire et pour pleurer, 1973, and Lucien Leuwen, 1973. Died: In 1976.
Films as Writer (Aurenche):
Pirates du Rhône (+ co-d—short); Bracos de Sologne (+ co-d—short); Monsieur Cordon (P. Prévert—short) (+ ro)
Les Dégourdis de la onzième (Christian-Jaque); Vous n'avez rien à déclarer? (Y. Allégret and Joannon)
L'Affaire Lafarge (Chenal); L'Affaire du courrier de Lyon (The Courier of Lyons) (Lehmann)
Hôtel du Nord (Carné); Le Ruisseau (Lehmann)
L'Héritier des Mondésir (Valentin); Cavalcade d'amour (Bernard); La Tradition de minuit (Richebé); L'Emigrante (Y. Allégret and Joannon)
Madame Sans-Gêne (Richebé)
Le Mariage de Chiffon (Autant-Lara); Domino (Richebé); Huit hommes dans un château (Pottier); Romance à trois (Richebé); Lettres d'amour (Autant-Lara)
Le Moussaillon (Gourguet); Le Marchand de notes (Grimault—short); Les Petites du Quai aux Fleurs (M. Allégret); Adrien (Fernandel); L'Epouv antail (Grimault—short)
Le Voleur de paratonnerres (Grimault—short); Sylvie et la fantôme (Sylvie and the Ghost; Sylvie and the Phantom) (Autant-Lara)
Les J-3 (Richebé)
Les Amants du Pont Saint-Jean (Decoin)
Gibier de potence (Richebé)
Mam'zelle Nitouche (Y. Allégret)
Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) (Delannoy)
La Femme et le pantin (The Female) (Duvivier)
L'Affaire d'une nuit (Verneuil)
Vive Henri IV, vive l'amour! (Autant-Lara); Vu du pont (A View from the Bridge) (Lumet) (French version only)
Venere imperiale (Delannoy)
Le Journal d'une femme en blanc (Autant-Lara)
Le Nouveau Journal d'une femme en blanc (Une Femme en blanc se révolte (Autant-Lara)
"Aujourd'hui" ep. of Le Plus Vieux Métier du monde (The Oldest Profession) (Autant-Lara)
Les Patates (Autant-Lara)
Que la fête commence (Let Joy Reign Supreme) (Tavernier); Le Juge et l'assassin (The Judge and the Assassin (Tavernier)
Coup de torchon (Clean Slate) (Tavernier)
L'Etoile du nord (The Northern Star) (Granier-Deferre)
Fucking Fernand (Mordillat); De guerre lasse (Enrico) (co)
Le Palanquin des larmes (Dorfmann)
Films as Writer (Bost):
L'Héritier des Mondésir (Valentin)
L'Homme qui joue avec le feu (De Limur); Croisières sidérales (Zwobada); La Chèvre d'or (Barberis); Une Etoile au soleil (Zwobada); Madame et le mort (Daquin); Dernier atout (Becker)
La Libération de Paris
Les Jeux sont faits (Delannoy)
Le Château de verre (Clément)
La voce del silenzio (Pabst); La P . . . respectueuse (The Respectful Prostitute) (Pagliero and Brabant)
Une Fille nommée Madeleine (Maddalena) (Genina); Le Guérisseur (Ciampi)
Oeil pour oeil (An Eye for an Eye) (Cayatte)
Le Vent se lève (Ciampi)
Che gioia vivere (Quelle joie de vivre) (Clément)
Films as Cowriters:
La Symphonie pastorale (Delannoy); La Septième Porte (Zwobada)
Le Diable au corps (Devil in the Flesh) (Autant-Lara)
Au-delà des grilles (The Walls of Malapaga) (Clément); Occupe-toi d'Amélie (Oh, Amelia) (Autant-Lara)
Dieu a besoin des hommes (God Needs Men) (Delannoy)
L'Auberge rouge (Autant-Lara); Les Jeux interdits (Forbidden Games) (Clément); "La Paresse" and "L'Orgeuil" eps. of Les Sept Péchés capitaux (The Seven Capital Sins) (Dréville and Autant-Lara)
"Jeanne d'Arc" ep. of Destinées (Daughters of Destiny) (Delannoy)
Le Blé en herbe (The Game of Love) (Autant-Lara); Les Orgueilleux (The Proud and the Beautiful) (Y. Allégret)
Le Rouge et le noir (Autant-Lara)
Chiens perdus sans collier (Delannoy); Gervaise (Clément)
La Traversée de Paris (Four Bags Full) (Autant-Lara)
En cas de malheur (Love Is My Profession) (Autant-Lara); Le Joueur (Autant-Lara)
La Jument verte (The Green Mare) (Autant-Lara); Le Chemin des écoliers (Boisrond)
Les Régates de San Francisco (Autant-Lara)
Tu ne tueras point (Autant-Lara)
Le Crime ne paie pas (Crime Does Not Pay) (Oury); Le Rendez-vous (Delannoy)
Le Meurtrier (Enough Rope) (Autant-Lara)
Le Magot de Joséfa (Autant-Lara); Les Amitiés particulières (This Special Friendship) (Delannoy); "La Fourmi" ep. of Humour noir (Autant-Lara)
Paris brûle-t-il? (Is Paris Burning?) (Clément)
Le Franciscain de Bourges (Autant-Lara)
L'Horloger de Saint-Paul (The Clockmaker) (Tavernier)
By AURENCHE: books—
(Co-author), Molière pour rire et pour pleurer, Paris, 1973.
La suite à l'écran, Lyon, 1993.
By AURENCHE: articles—
Films and Filming (London), May 1959.
Cinéma (Paris), February 1962.
Positif (Paris), April 1975.
In Les Scénaristes au travail, edited by Christian Salé, Renens, Switzerland, 1981.
Image et Son/Ecran (Paris), November 1981.
Problèmes Audiovisuels (Aubervilliers, France), May-June 1983.
On AURENCHE: articles—
Cinémonde (Paris), 26 September 1952.
Avant-Scène (Paris), no. 15, 1962.
Avant-Scène (Paris), May 1974.
Cinéma de France (Paris), May 1981.
First Cut, no. 10, 1981.
Joris, L., and R. Pede, Obituary in Film en Televisie et Video, no. 426, November 1992.
Douin, Jean-Luc, "De mémoire de cinéfils," in Télérama (Paris), 23 June 1993.
Masson, Alain, "Eloquent et public," in Positif (Paris), January 1994.
Little, M.-N., "Aurenche, Jean: La suite a l'ecran," in French Review, no. 4, 1996.
By BOST: books—
Hercule et mademoiselle, Paris, 1924.
Homicide par imprudence, Paris, 1925.
Les Vieillards, Paris, 1925.
Crise de croissance, Paris, 1926.
Faillite, Paris, 1928.
Anaïs, Paris, 1930.
Le Cirque et le music-hall, Paris, 1931.
Le Scandale, Paris, 1931, as The Offence, London, 1932.
Porte-Malheur, Paris, 1932.
Monsieur Ladmiral va bientôt mourir, Montrouge, 1945.
La Haute-Fourche, London, 1946.
With Pierre Darbon and Pierre Quet, La Puissance et la gloire, based on the novel by Graham Greene, Paris, 1953, as The Power and the Glory, London, 1959.
With C. A. Puget, Un Nommé Judas, Paris, 1954.
With others, Molière pour rire et pour pleurer, Paris, 1973.
By BOST: article—
Films and Filming (London), May 1959.
On BOST: articles—
Bianco e Nero (Rome), vol. 5, no. 7, 1943.
Avant-Scène (Paris), no. 15, 1962.
Avant-Scène (Paris), May 1974.
Obituary, in Cinéma (Paris), February 1976.
Little, Marie-Noelle, "La Suite a l'ecran," in French Review, March 1996.
* * *
A prolific writer of over 80 scenarios, Jean Aurenche enjoyed a long and varied film career. His 30-year partnership with Pierre Bost brought several major literary classics to the screen, and in the late 1940s and early 1950s these soundly-crafted adaptations, mostly directed by Claude Autant-Lara, enjoyed both enormous popularity and, initially, critical approval. However, their influence on French film production in this period was condemned by André Bazin and his outspoken protégé, François Truffaut, for whom the notion of a socalled quality cinema beholden to a literary tradition was essentially a denial of cinema itself. The eventual triumph of New Wave concepts of film authorship and production methods may have marked the collapse of the Aurenche and Bost hegemony, but not the end of the partnership which lasted until Bost's death in 1976. After that, Aurenche enjoyed a productive association with Bernard Tavernier. Most recently, Aurenche's presence was discernible in the antiauthoritarian Fucking Fernand with its anarchic excesses and black humour, while the more traditional side of the scriptwriter's humanitarianism is witnessed in De guerre lasse, a study of love and friendship during the Occupation and characteristically structured through flashback and voice-over.
Aurenche's early ambition had been to write gags for Buster Keaton, but a more modest debut awaited him in the early 1930s when he began writing publicity films for the Maison Damour. Here collaboration with Marcel Carné, Jean Anouilh, Paul Grimault, Jacques Prévert, Max Ernst, and other former surrealists like Denis Tual eventually led to more serious undertakings. Tual introduced him to the German scriptwriter Hans Wilhem to gain experience, and early success followed with the scenario for Chenal's L'Affaire Lafarge, the reconstruction of a famous court case. From his friendship with Grimault came the coauthorship of celebrated cartoons: Le Marchand de notes, L'Epouvantail, and Le Voleur de paratonnerres, adapted from his own short story. With Anouilh he composed the surrealist sketch Humulus le muet and later coscripted his first feature films for Joannon, Vous n'avez rien à déclarer? and, for Christian-Jaque, Les Dégourdis de la onzième. Through Carné he worked with Henri Jeanson on a skillfully constructed adaptation of Eugène Dabit's melodramatic Hôtel du Nord, and this collaboration was renewed in the 1960s for Verneuil's L'Affaire d'une nuit and the disappointing costume drama Vive Henri IV, vive l'amour! directed by Autant-Lara. With Prévert responsible for the dialogue, Aurenche undertook his first adaptation for Autant-Lara, the melodramatic L'Affaire du courrier de Lyon, and the two writers again combined for Delannoy's colourful version of Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris.
It was Autant-Lara who introduced Bost to Aurenche to help with the dialogue for his film Douce, taken from Michel Davet's simple story of a devoted governess in a bourgeois family. Their screen version cleverly subverts the original text by shifting the emphasis to expose middle-class complacency. Thereafter the two writers formed a unique partnership translating for the screen an impressive array of literary classics, including works by Aymé, Colette, Feydeau, Gide, Radiguet, Stendhal, and Zola. Their initial collaboration set the pattern for their approach to adaptation; Aurenche concerning himself mainly with the screenplay and Bost with the dialogue. Frequently their shared left-wing sympathies are reflected in the inflection given to their reworked film narratives. Although they worked for several directors their most memorable achievements are found in films by Delannoy, Clément, and Autant-Lara.
Their first international success came with Delannoy and their version of La Symphonie pastorale, after Gide's own script had been rejected. The original narrative exposes a pastor's self-deceiving relationship with Gertrude, a blind girl, and the tragic consequences his lack of self-awareness brings both for the girl and his family. Although the reworking is satisfactory in its own terms with a neatly balanced plot, clearly drawn characters, and thematic exposition of moral dilemmas, it is by the same token a betrayal and simplification of Gide's account of moral complexities and perceptions. The weakness in the film's narrative strategy lies in its inability to reproduce the irony implicit in the restricted viewpoint of the self-deluding pastor, and, throughout, the audience is fully aware of the real situation. Similarly Gide's teasingly subtle symbolism becomes heavily explicit in the more concrete visual statement. Further films followed for Delannoy in the 1950s including Chiens perdus sans collier, a well-worked, socially conscious account of a judge's mission to save a group of delinquents, and Dieu a besoin des hommes, from a novel by Quefflec, which concerns a priest's fraught relationship with a superstitious fishing community. The film narrative is again tightly structured and allows for powerful visually composed scenes matched by forceful dialogue, but the ironical observation of the original is lost. Although collaboration with Delannoy continued in the 1960s none of the films redounded to the scriptwriters reputation.
Their association with René Clément began with Au-delà des grilles when they reshaped an existing Italian script into a tightly organized, but ultimately predictable, melodrama about a fugitive criminal played by Jean Gabin. The scenario for Les Jeux interdits, which depicts the life of two children growing up during the Occupation, was cowritten with the author François Boyer who had originally conceived his novel as a film-script. The result is a delicate, finely judged screen version which deftly projects the children's feelings. However, of their films for Clément, none has matched Gervaise, a generally faithful and sympathetic rendering of Zola's working-class masterpiece L'Assommoir, which deals with the social consequences of poverty and alcoholism. As the film title implies, the scenario shifts the emphasis from the study of general sociological issues to the depiction of the heroine's tragic fate. If the narrative framework retains the key elements the scope of the action is reduced, and some episodes, namely Goujet's involvement in a strike, his trial, and imprisonment have been invented. As with other adaptations, Aurenche and Bost have used a combination of flashback and voice-over to bind narrative elements together and to clarify characters' motivations.
It is through their sustained service to Autant-Lara both as a team and as individuals that the talents of Aurenche and Bost are most completely displayed. After Douce the two collaborated on an adaptation of Radiguet's Le Diable au corps, the first of three films with Gérard Philipe as the protagonist. Here he plays the selfish, immature lover of a woman whose husband is at the front during World War I. The film narrative is structured through a series of flashbacks which encourages a strong identification with the couple's situation, the tensions within the relationship, and the difficulties caused by social pressures. In the adaptation of Stendhal's Le Rouge et le noir Philipe was Julien Sorel, the gifted but unsure proletarian hero making his way in society as a charming seducer. The devices of flashback and first-person narrative are introduced to order the material of the novel, and although the key plot elements remain, there is inevitably considerable condensing and simplification of Stendhal's dense narrative. The tone and depth of the author's narration with its subtle articulations are sadly lacking. Sharp observations on the political intrigues and the social order, the insights afforded into the complex psychology of the assertive yet self-doubting hero have been sacrificed to episodes with an inherently dramatic, visual, appeal. Philipe was again the protagonist of Le Joueur, an adaptation of Dostoevsky's tale, but the script becomes a star vehicle and the subtleties and reflective nature of the original are lost in melodrama. Their version of Colette's delicately textured novel Le Blé en herbe, which tells of the burgeoning love between two adolescents and the seduction of the boy by a mature woman, is not without strengths, the script translating well many of the more tentatively intimate moments.
Farce and comedy were also part of the Aurenche and Bost repertoire. Their version of the Feydeau play Occupe-toi d'Amélie remains a cleverly wrought boulevard farce, adopting the form of a play within a film. In their adaptation of the Marcel Aymé comic story, La Traversée de Paris, telling of wartime blackmarketeering, episodes were invented and the proletarian taxi-driver is deliberately rendered more likeable than the aristocratic painter, played by Gabin. Less successful in its attempt to bring together a multiplicity of narrative threads was their version of Aymé's bucolic farce of seduction and intrigue, La Jument verte. Black comedy is at the heart of L'Auberge rouge, one of their few original scenarios. Here a murderous innkeeper and his wife systematically kill off their guests much to the consternation of an informed monk, played by Fernandel, who feels unable to break his vows of confidentiality. Antibourgeois, anti-Catholic, this disturbing farce is tightly worked but reveals a decidedly literary style. A much more serious, didactic tone is established for Tu ne tueras point which deals with conscientious objection. The plot, again dependent on flashback, is rather pedestrian and does not carry the weight of Autant-Lara's message.
The last important collaboration between Aurenche and Bost was for Bernard Tavernier with their free adaptation of Simenon's L'Horloger d'Everton. Retitled L'Horloger de Saint-Paul, the action moves from South America to Lyon. Characters and situations are modified to present a portrait of the French city and to depict an unusual friendship between the criminal's father, played by Philippe Noiret, and the investigating detective. The reshaping allows an exposition of current French political attitudes and the humanistic values dear to Tavernier. After Bost's death, Aurenche collaborated with the director on further scenarios with Noiret in the main role. The witty Que la fête commence, loosely adapted from La Fille du Régent by Dumas, is again used as a vehicle for contemporary comment, while Le Juge et l'assassin is a psychological study of power through the example of an overbearing magistrate. Black humour, though perhaps a little laboured, is the essence of Coup de torchon which deals with colonial rule in Africa through another figure of authority, that of a slovenly policeman, again brilliantly played by Noiret. In two of his films Tavernier acknowledges his debt to Aurenche. Une Semaine de vacances is dedicated to him, while within the narrative of Coup de torchon is found Aurenche's early advertising short Au petit jour à Mexico on va fusiller un homme. Homage is similarly paid to Bost with the delicately observed Un Dimanche à la campagne, a reworking of his early novel Monsieur L'admiral va bientôt mourir. With their strong literary flavour and social comment Tavernier's films appropriately renew the traditions estabished by Aurenche and Bost in the late 1940s.
Bost can claim a number of film credits independent of those in collaboration with Aurenche. He worked for a variety of directors, adapting both novels and plays as well as writing dialogue. An early 1940s script provided Becker with a taut police drama in Dernier atout, while for Daquin he wrote dialogue, notably for Patrie, adapted from a play by Sardou and dealing indirectly with the moral issues of Occupation and Resistance. His adaptation of the Soubiran novel Les Hommes en blanc for Habib inspired perhaps this director's most accomplished film, while also of considerable interest was Paviot's Pantalaskas, dealing with the difficulties of immigrant workers, for which he wrote the dialogue. His sober commentary enhances the documentary La Libération de Paris, which was pieced together from original footage.
Neither Aurenche nor Bost articulated any illuminating theory of adaptation. A rendering faithful to the original text while ensuring a visually engaging film readily understood by all seems to have been the basic aim. Their role was to stimulate the director, to work as closely as possible with him, and to allow for the needs of stars such as Philipe, Gabin, or Noiret. Dialogue was seen as an aspect of characterization rather than as a function of plot clarification. There is considerable truth in the basic charge levelled by Truffaut, namely that authors with quite different values and quite different narrative strategies are reduced to a sameness through the Aurenche and Bost treatment. Their well-tried formula closes open-ended plots, simplifies elusive, complex characters, and prefers strong visual development to reflective interiority. Their rejected script for Le Journal d'un curé de campagne understandably failed to satisfy Bernanos. Although their personal persuasions and values are occasionally discernible through their adaptations, they rarely treated a literary text as Balàzs would have wished, namely as raw material susceptible to a completely original restatement. Yet arguably they did impose their own identifiable style, based in an intelligent paring down of plots, a regular reliance on flashback and first-person narration in their reordering of material, together with frequently sharp, sensitive, and witty dialogue. Consummate craftsmen, fashioning to their own ends the disparate material of fellow authors, Aurenche and Bost represent a particular view of the cinema's relationship with literature. Their enterprise raises fundamental and unresolved questions about precisely what a film adaptation of a literary text should seek to achieve.
—R. F. Cousins