Nationality: French. Born: Paris, 14 March 1939. Career: Assistant director on films of Lautner, Christian-Jaque, Delannoy, and others, 1960–63; directed first feature, Hitler? Connais pas!, 1963. Awards: Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, for Preparez vos mouchoirs, 1978; Cesar for the screenplay of Buffet froid, 1979; Special Jury Prize, Cannes Film Festival, for Trop belle pour toi (Too Beautiful for You), 1989.
Films as Director:
Hitler? Connais pas! (+ sc)
La Grimace (+ sc)
Si j'etais un espion (Breakdown; If I Were a Spy) (+ co-sc)
Les Valseuses (Going Places) (+ sc)
Calmos (Femmes Fatales) (+ co-sc)
Preparez vos mouchoirs (Get out Your Handkerchiefs) (+ sc)
Buffet froid (+ sc)
Beau-père (+ sc)
La Femme de mon pote (My Best Friend's Girl) (+ co-sc)
Notre Histoire (Our Story) (+ sc)
Tenue de soirée (Menage) (+sc)
Trop belle pour toi (Too Beautiful for You) (+sc)
Merci la vie (Thanks, Life) (+ sc, pr)
Un deux trois soleil (One Two Three Sun) (+ sc)
Mon homme (My Man) (+ sc)
Les Acteurs (Actors) (+ sc)
Laisse aller, c'est une valse (Lautner) (sc)
Patrick Dewaere (role as himself)
By BLIER: books—
Les Valseuses, Paris, 1972.
Beau-père, Paris, 1980.
By BLIER: articles—
"Les Valseuses de Bertrand Blier: le nuvité du cinéma français," interview with R. Gay, in Cinéma Québec (Montreal), vol. 3, no. 8, 1974.
Interview with B. Villien and P. Carcassonne, in Cinématographe (Paris), January 1980.
"Beau-père: Entretien avec Bertrand Blier," with C. de Béchade and H. Descrues, in Image et Son (Paris), September 1981.
"A la recherche de l'histoire," an interview with Marc Chevrie and D. Dubroux, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1985.
Interview with Sheila Johnston, in Stills (London), May 1985.
Interview with P. Le Guay, in Cinématographe (Paris), May 1986.
"Manhandler," interview with Dan Yakir, in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1986.
Interview with Serge Toubiana, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1988.
Interview in La Revue du Cinéma (Paris), July-August 1988.
Interview in Première (Paris), May 1989.
Interview with Serge Toubiana and T. Jousse, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1989.
Interview with F. Aude and J.P. Jeancolas, in Positif (Paris), June 1989.
Interview in Time Out (London), 14 February 1990.
Interview with Serge Toubiana, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), March 1991.
"Boule blanche," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1991 (supplement).
"Yves: Un deux trois soleil: I Want to Go Home/'Pointer ce qui va mal,"' an interview with Philippe Ortoli and Yves Alion, in Mensuel du Cinéma, September 1993.
On BLIER: articles—
Buckley, T., "The Truth about Making a Movie in Singapore," in New York Times, 2 February 1979.
Alion, Yves, "Buffet froid Issue" of Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 15 March 1980.
"Blier Section," in Cinéma (Paris), July-August 1981.
Rickey, C., "Lolita Française," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), October 1981.
Toubiana, Serge, and Pierre Bonitzer, "Le cauchemar d'Antoine. Les mots et les choses," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), April 1986.
Blier Section of Revue du Cinéma (Paris), June 1986.
Chutnow, P., "Blier Puts a Fresh Wrinkle in the Old Triangle," in New York Times, 17 September 1989.
Toubiana, S., "Entretien avec Bertrand Blier," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), March 1991.
Jousse, T., article in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), April 1991.
Moullet, L., "Le neo-irrealisme francais," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), January 1994.
Courtade, Maria and Kha, Sylvie, "Rires et délits," in Positif (Paris), November 1995.
Rood, Jurriën, "Een lang neus tegen de werkelijkheid," in Skrien (Amsterdam), December-January 1996–1997.
* * *
Bertrand Blier directs erotic buddy movies featuring men who are exasperated by the opposite sex, who perceive of themselves as macho but are incapable of satisfying the women in their lives. In actuality, his heroes are terrified of feminism, of the "new woman" who demands her right to experience and enjoy orgasm. But Blier's females are in no way villainesses. They are just elusive—and so alienated that they can only find fulfillment from oddballs or young boys.
Going Places (Les Valseuses, which in French is slang for testicles), based on Blier's best-selling novel, was a box office smash in France. Gérard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere both achieved stardom as a couple of outsiders, adult juvenile delinquents, whose sexual and sadistic adventures are chronicled as they travel across France. They are both unable to bring to orgasm a young beautician (played by Miou-Miou) they pick up and take on as a sexual partner. They then attempt to please an older woman (Jeanne Moreau), who has just spent ten years in prison. After a night together, she commits suicide by shooting herself in the vagina. Eventually, Miou-Miou is sexually satisfied by a crazy, physically unattractive ex-con.
In Femmes Fatales middle-aged Jean-Pierre Marielle and Jean Rochefort, one a gynaecologist and the other a pimp, decide to abandon wives and mistresses for the countryside, but end up pursued by an army of women intent on enslaving them as studs. Again, men cannot escape women's sexual demands: here, the latter come after the former with tanks and guns. And in Get out Your Handkerchiefs, driving instructor Depardieu is so anxious to please bored, depressed wife Carol Laure that he finds her a lover. Both the husband and the stranger, a playground instructor (Dewaere), feel that she will be happy if she can only have a child. She in her own way does this, finding a substitute for them in a precocious young boy barely into his teens. Handkerchiefs is a prelude of sorts to Beau-Père, which features only one male lead (as does the later Trop belle pour toi, in which Depardieu is at the centre of a love triangle). Here, a struggling pianist, played by Dewaere, is seduced by the refreshingly self-confident 14-year-old daughter of his recently deceased lover. The teenager's feelings are deep and pure, while the "adult" is immature, too self-conscious and self-absorbed to accept her.
In Blier's films, men do not understand women. "Maybe one day I'll do Camille," the filmmaker says. "But I won't do An Unmarried Woman, because I don't feel I have the right to do it. I don't know what goes on in a woman's head. I believe I know what certain men think, but not women." As a result, the sexual barriers between the sexes seem irrevocable in Blier's movies. His men are more at ease talking among themselves about women than with actually being with wives or lovers; their relationships with each other are for them more meaningful than their contacts with the opposite sex. There are alternatives to women, such as turning to homosexual relationships (the characters in Going Places sleep with each other when they are lonely or celibate).
Another Blier film, Buffet froid, is also about male bonding: Depardieu, as a psychopathic killer, becomes involved with a mass murderer (Jean Carmet) and a homicidal cop (the director's father, the distinguished character actor Bernard Blier). However, Buffet froid is mostly a study of alienation in urban society, and the acceptance of random, irrational violence. It is thematically more closely related to Jules Feiffer's Little Murders than Going Places or Get out Your Handkerchiefs. Quality-wise, Blier's most recent films have added little luster to his career. However, the film maker seems to have tired of making films about men. Beginning with Trop belle pour toi (Too Beautiful for You), the most accessible of his latter-career works, his primary characters have been women. Trop belle pour toi does feature a clever take on extramarital relationships. Blier regular Gerard Depardieu plays a car dealer whose wife is beautiful and intelligent; nonetheless, he cheats on her with his otherwise ordinary, chubby temporary receptionist. Despite this intriguing premise and recognition with a Cannes Film Festival Special Jury Prize, the film lacks the spark and outrageousness of his earlier work.
The director's other features include Merci la vie (Thanks, Life), a feminist take on Going Places that sparked controversy upon its opening in France. It is a road movie which chronicles the sexual exploits of two young women, one sluttish and the other naive. Un deux trois soliel (One Two Three Sun) focuses on the plight of a young girl, growing up in a public housing project in Marseilles, who adores her alcoholic father and is mortified by her mother's affectations.
Bertrand Blier best explains what he attempts to communicate in his films: "The relations between men and women are constantly evolving and it's interesting to show people leading the lifestyle of tomorrow."