de Broca, Philippe
de BROCA, Philippe
Nationality: French. Born: Paris, 15 March 1933. Family: Married 1) Michele Heurtaux, 1961 (divorced); 2) Valerie Rojan, 1987; has adopted Nepal-born son. Education: Studied at Ecole Nationale de Photographie et de Cinematographie, Paris. Career: Worked as a newsreel cameraman in Algeria, while completing military service, early 1950s; began making documentary shorts, 1954; worked as an assistant director to Claude Chabrol on Le beau serge and Les cousins (The Cousins), and on Francois Truffaut's Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows), 1958–59; made feature debut with Les Jeux de l'amour (The Love Game), 1960; formed Fildebroc, his production company, 1965. Awards: Silver Bear (Special Prize), Best Comedy,
for Les Jeux de l'amour, 1960. Address: Artmedia, 10 Avenue Georges V, 75008 Paris, France.
Films as Director and Co-Screenwriter/Screenwriter:
Salon nautique (doc) (short) (d only, + ph)
Operation Gas-Oil (doc) (short) (d only, + ph); Sous un autre soleil (doc) (short) (d only, + ph)
Les Jeux de l'amour (The Love Game); Le Farceur (The Joker)
L'Amant de cinq jours (The 5 Day Lovers)
"La Gourmandise" ("Gluttony"), episode in Les Sept Peches capitaux (The 7 Deadly Sins) (d only); Cartouche (+ ro); "La Vedette" episode in Les Veinards
L'Homme de Rio (That Man from Rio)
Un Monsieur de compagnie (Male Companion) (+ co-adapt)
Les Tribulations d'un chinois en Chine (Up to His Ears)
Le Roi de coeur (King of Hearts) (d only, + pr)
"Mademoiselle Mimi" episode in Le Plus Vieux Metier du Monde (The Oldest Profession) (d only);
Le Diable par la queue (The Devil by the Tail)
Les Caprices de Marie (Give Her the Moon)
La Poudre d'escampette (Touch and Go)
Le Magnifique (Comment detruire la reputation du plus celebre agent secret du monde, How to Destroy the Reputation of the Greatest Secret Agent) (d only, + ro)
Julie Pot de Colle (d only); Tendre Poulet (Dear Inspector, Dear Detective)
Le Cavaleur (Practice Makes Perfect)
On a vole la cuisse de Jupiter (Jupiter's Thigh); Psy (d only)
L'Africain (The African)
Louisiana (Louisiane) (for TV) (d only)
La Gitane (The Gypsy)
Les 1001 nuits (Scheherazade)
Les Cles du paradis (The Keys to Paradise)
Regarde-moi quand je te quitte (for TV)
Le Jardin des plantes (The Greenhouse) (for TV)
Le Veilleur de nuit (for TV) (d only)
Le Bossu (On Guard); Les Hommes et les femmes sont faits pour vivre heureux. . . mais pas ensemble (for TV) (d only)
Tous peuvent me tuer (Decoin) (asst d); Charmants garcons (Decoin) (2nd asst d); La Cargaison blanche (Lacombe) (asst d)
Ramuntcho (Schoendoerffer) (asst d); Le beau serge (Chabrol) (asst d, ro)
Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows) (Truffaut) (asst d); Les cousins (The Cousins) (Chabrol) (asst d); A bout de souffle (Breathless) (Godard) (ro)
Les Pieds-Nickeles (Chambon) (ro)
Ne jouez pas avec les Martiens (Lanoe) (co-sc, pr); O Salto (Le Saut, Le Voyage du silence) (Chalonge) (pr)
Le Cinema de papa (Berri) (ro)
Belmondo, le magnifique (Chammings—for TV) (doc) (as Himself)
By de BROCA: articles—
"What Directors Are Saying," in Action (Los Angeles), March/April 1975.
"Philippe de Broca," interview in Cine Revue (Brussels), 4 December 1975.
"Dites-moi: Philippe de Broca," interview with T. DeCock, in Amisdu Film et de la Television (Brussels), January 1978.
"La gitane," interview with J. Lhassa, in Grand Angle (Mariembourg, Belgium), March 1985.
On de BROCA: articles—
Baker, B., "Philippe De Broca," in Film Dope (Herfordshire, England), July 1974.
Bosseno, C., "On a vole la cuisse de Jupiter," in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), March 1980.
Buckley, T., "At the Movies," in New York Times, 11 July 1980.
Burke-Block, C., "Philippe de Broca on 'Perfect' release," in FilmJournal (New York), August 1980.
Curran, T., "Director's Series: Philippe de Broca," in Films inReview (New York), November 1980.
Duval, B., "Philippe de Broca," in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), March 1983.
"Les Vedettes de la semaine," in Cine-Tele-Revue (Brussels), 10 March 1988.
Quenin, F., "Philippe de Broca l'homme pratique," in Cinema 88 (Paris), 23–29 March 1988.
"Philippe de Broca," in Cinemaction (Conde-sur-Noireau, France), January 1992.
* * *
Philippe de Broca has worked consistently since the 1960s, directing films for theatrical release and television. Yet when one thinks of de Broca, one thinks not of his recent titles but of his earliest and most successful films: sincere, playfully impudent comic spoofs made with dexterity and vigor, which stress illusion over reality.
In these early films, which he also co-scripted, de Broca's characters are nonconformists who celebrate life and the joy of personal liberation. Structurally the films are highly visual, more concerned with communicating by images than by any specifics in the scenario. And these images often are picturesque. De Broca acknowledges his desire to give pleasure to the esthetic sense and, as such, he is a popular artist. While these early films are neither as evocative as those of François Truffaut (with whom de Broca worked as an assistant director on The 400 Blows) nor as cinematic as those of Claude Chabrol (with whom de Broca worked as an assistant director on Le beau serge and Les cousins), they exude style and wit. While they might be fanciful in content, their essence is emotionally genuine.
De Broca's films are non-tragic, and feature humorous treatments of characters and their situations. One of his favorite themes is the relationship between the sexes, explored in his earliest films—Les Jeux de l'amour, Le Farceur, and L'Amant de cinq jours—each with Jean-Pierre Cassel playing a lighthearted lover. This character appears 20 years older in Le Cavaleur, featuring Jean Rochefort as a bored, self-centered womanizer. De Broca's most popular early-career films, however, star Jean-Paul Belmondo: Cartouche, a flavorful comedy-swashbuckler chronicling the exploits of kind-hearted criminals in 18th-century Paris; and L'Homme de Rio, a charming James Bond spoof about a soldier on leave who is led to a stunningly photographed Brazil on a chase for treasure. His most renowned effort is Le Roi de coeur, set during the final days of World War I in a town that has been abandoned by all except the residents of an insane asylum.
Thematically speaking, Le Roi de coeur is a perfect film for its time. Released just as the anti-Vietnam war movement was gaining momentum, it is a pungent satire that lampoons the very nature of war and conflict. Not surprisingly, Le Roi de coeur fast became a cult favorite among college students. It ran for six-and-a-half years alone at a Cambridge, Massachusetts, moviehouse. Le Roi de coeur is de Broca's idea of an anti-war film. Typically, he does not focus on the calamity of a youthful hero who is robbed of his life (as in All Quiet on the Western Front), or soldiers needlessly and maddeningly put to death by a military bureaucracy (as in Paths of Glory and Breaker Morant), or the bloody slaughter of his protagonists. Deaths and tragedies in a de Broca film usually are obscured by humorous, feel-good situations. In Le Roi de coeur he gently, satirically celebrates individual freedom. His inmates appear saner than the warring society that has labeled them mad.
De Broca is more concerned with good than evil. He began his career as a newsreel cameraman in Algeria and made several documentary shorts, but switched to narrative filmmaking because he "decided the real world was just too ugly." At his best, de Broca deals with possibilities—for peace, beauty, hope, love.
Nevertheless, the work in his first half-decade as a feature filmmaker generally is more satisfying than his efforts of the past three decades. Among de Broca's higher-profile post-1960s films are Le Cavaleur and Tendre Poulet (Dear Inspector and Dear Detective), a romantic comedy about a female cop who rekindles a romance with an old lover while sniffing out a killer. The latter was so popular that it spawned an American made-for-TV movie and an inferior de Broca-directed sequel, On a vole la cuisse de Jupiter (Jupiter's Thigh). By the 1990s, de Broca mostly was directing for French television. A typical credit was Le Jardin des plantes (The Greenhouse), a chronicle of the warm and protective relationship between a little girl and her grandfather in the waning days of World War II. Le Jardin des plantes is a thematic throwback to Le Roi de coeur in that it may be interpreted as a statement about the folly of war. It also reflects on the less-thanhonorable behavior of some Frenchmen and women under the German occupation. Yet despite its somber setting, Le Jardin des plantes is consistent with de Broca's cinematic view in that it primarily is a candy-coated entertainment that exudes a sentimentality for a time and place that in reality was brutal and dangerous.
By far de Broca's highest-profile late-career theatrical feature is Le Bossu (On Guard), which may be linked to Cartouche as a swashbuckler/ripped-bodice period piece. Le Bossu is set in the France of Louis XIV and charts the derring-do resulting from a faithful swordsman's rescue of an infant princess from the grasp of her sinister relations. While entertaining and acclaimed—it won nine César Award nominations—Le Bossu is nothing more than a slick, by-thenumbers commercial vehicle. In the end, de Broca's best films were those made in the 1960s.