Goretta, Claude

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Nationality: Swiss. Born: Geneva, 23 June 1929. Education: Law coursework at Université de Genève. Career: With Alain Tanner, moved to London, 1955; worked at British Film institute, 1956–57; television director in Switzerland, from 1958; formed production company "Groupe de 5," with Tanner, Jean-Louis Roy, Claude Soutter, and Yves Yersin, 1968; directed first feature, Le Fou, 1970. Awards: Ecumenical Prize, Cannes Festival, for La Dentellière, 1977.

Films as Director and Scriptwriter:


Nice Time (co-d, co-sc)


Le Fou (The Madman) (+ co-pr)


L'Invitation (The Invitation) (co-sc)


Pas si méchant que ça (Not as Wicked as That; The WonderfulCrook) (co-sc)


La Dentellière (The Lacemaker) (co-sc); Jean Piaget (TheEpistemology of Jean Piaget)


Les Chemines de l'Exile ou Les Dernières Années de Jean-Jacques Rousseau (The Roads of Exile)


La Provinciale (The Girl from Lorraine); Bonheur toi-même


La Mort de Mario Ricci (The Death of Mario Ricci)




Si le soleil ne revenais pas (If the Sun Never Returns); LeRapport du Gendarme (for TV)


L'Ombre; Visages Suisses


Het Verdriet Van Belgie (d only)


Le Dernier été (for TV) (d only)


By GORETTA: book—

La Dentellière, Paris, 1981.

By GORETTA: articles—

Interview with G. Langlois, in Cinéma (Paris), April 1973.

Interview with M. Boujut, in Cinema (Zurich), vol. 21, no. 1, 1975.

Interview with D. Maillet, in Cinématographe (Paris), June 1977.

Interview with Judith Kass, in Movietone News (Seattle), 14 August 1978.

On GORETTA: articles—

Delmas, J., "Tanner, Goretta, la Suisse et nous," in Jeune Cinéma (Paris), September/October 1973.

"Claude Goretta," in Cinema (Zurich), vol. 20, no. 1, 1974.

Milne, Tom, "Goretta's Roads of Exile," in Sight and Sound (London), no. 2, 1979.

Milne, Tom, "Claude Goretta," in Film Dope (London), April 1980.

"La Dentellière Issue" of Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 15 April 1981.

Buache Freddy, "Claude Goretta," in Revue Belge du Cinéma (Brussels), Winter 1985.

Buache, F., article in Cinemaction, April 1990.

Schlappner, Martin, article in Filmbulletin (Winterthur), January 1998.

* * *

Claude Goretta's gentle comedies and sensitive depictions of provincial naifs have been among the most successful Swiss films of the twentieth century. Although Goretta shares his countryman Alain Tanner's preoccupation with Renoiresque evocations of landscape and lovable eccentrics, there is a sharp disparity between these two idiosyncratic Swiss directors. As Goretta himself has observed, "Tanner's films always have a discourse, while mine do everything they can to avoid one."

Goretta's first film, an experimental short called Nice Time, was in fact made with the collaboration of Alain Tanner when both men were affiliated with the British Film Institute. This impressionistic view of Piccadilly Circus, one of the sleazier parts of central London, prefigures both directors' subsequent interest in whimsical vignettes with serious, and occasionally acerbic, sociological underpinnings. Like many contemporary directors of note, Goretta served his apprenticeship in television. Many of his early television films were literary adaptations, including an adaptation of four Chekhov stories, Chekov ou le miroir des vies perdues. Goretta's first feature film, Le Fou, featured one of his favorite actors, the distinguished character player, François Simon. Despite a mixed critical reception, Le Fou was awarded a prize as the best Swiss film of 1970 by the Swiss Critics' Association. L'Invitation was the first of Goretta's films to receive widespread international recognition. This unpretentious comedy about the loss of inhibitions experienced by a group of office workers during a mildly uproarious party was ecstatically reviewed by British and American critics who casually invoked the names of both Buñuel and Renoir for the sake of comparison. Pas si méchant que ça fared less well with both the critics and public, although Gérard Depardieu's charming portrayal of a whimsical thief was widely praised.

Le Dentellière, an incisive character study of a guileless young beautician played flawlessly by Isabelle Huppert (in her first major role), received an even more rhapsodic critical reception than L'Invitation. Jean Boffety's pristine cinematography and Goretta's restrained direction were singled out for praise, although several feminist critics cogently observed that Goretta's reverence for the Huppert character's enigmatic passivity was a singularly insidious example of male condescension.

Les Chemins de l'exil marked Goretta's return to his roots in documentary filmmaking. This leisurely biographical portrait of Jean-Jacques Rousseau stars François Simon as the famed philosophe who remains one of the most celebrated figures in Swiss cultural history. La Provinciale was a somewhat muddled attempt to reiterate many of the themes first explored in La Dentellière, although Nathalie Baye's performance was suffused with integrity. The Death of Mario Ricci was favorably received at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival.

—Richard Porton