Mnouchkine, Alexandre

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Producer. Nationality: Russian and French. Born: Leningrad, USSR, 10 February 1908. Took French citizenship in 1930. Family: Married 1) June Hannen; two daughters, Ariane and Joelle; 2) actress Simone Renant. Career: 1932—administrator at Majestic films; 1938—first film as producer Alerte en Méditerranée (Léo Joannon); 1945—founded with Georges Dancigers and Francis Cosne Les Films Ariane, named after his daughter; 1986—Films Ariane acquired by Cora-Reveillon group, which in 1988 becomes Les Editions Mondiales Révcom; 1987—appeared as Pattos in Cronaca di una morte annunciata; 1989—elected president of the Académie des arts et technique du cinéma. Awards : Academy Awards, Préparez vos Mouchoirs, 1977, Cinema Paradiso, 1989; Cesar Award, La Balance, 1982. Died: In Paris, 3 April 1993.

Films as Producer or Coproducer:


Alerte en Méditerranée (S.O.S. Mediterranean) (Joannon)


L'Emigrante (Joannon)


Tant que je vivrai (de Baroncelli)


Le Destin s'amuse (Reinert)


Non coupable (Décoin); Les Condamnés (Lacombe)


L'Aigle a deux têtes (Eagle with Two Heads) (Cocteau); Bal Cupidon (Sauvajon)


Les Parents terribles (The Storm Within) (Jean Cocteau);Julie de Carneilhan (Manuel); Mon ami Sainfoin (Sauvajon)


L'Homme de joie (Grangier); L'Amant de paille (Grangier)


Le Cap de l'Espérance (Bernard)


Fanfan la Tulipe (Fearless Little Soldier) (Christian-Jaque)


Lucrèce Borgia (Lucrezia Borgia) (Christian-Jaque); Viaggio in Italia (L'Amour est le plus fort; Journey to Italy) (Rossellini)


Madame du Barry (Christian-Jaque)


La Madelon (Boyer)


Le Retour de Don Camillo (Duvivier); Si tous les gars du monde (Race for Life) (Christian-Jaque)


Une Parisienne (Michel Boisrond); Les Aventures de Till l'Espiègle (The Bold Adventure) (Philipe); Club de femmes (Habib)


La Loi, c'est la loi (Christian-Jaque)


Babette s'en va-t-en guerre (Babette Goes to War) (Christian-Jaque); Rue des prairies (de la Patellière)


I Delfini (Maselli); Fantasma a Roma (Les Joyeux Fantômes) (Pietrangeli)


L'Amant de cinq jours (The Five-Day Lover) (de Broca); Cartouche (Swords of Blood) (de Broca); Jessica (La Sage femme, le curé et le bon Dieu) (Negulesco); Arrivano i Titani (Les Titans) (Tessari)


Mare Matto (Castellani)


L'Homme de Rio (L'Uomo di Rio; The Man from Rio) (de Broca); The Train (Frankenheimer)


Les Tribulations d'un Chinois en Chine (Up to His Ears) (de Broca)


Vivre pour Vivre (Live for Life) (Lelouch); Mise à sac (Pillaged) (Alain Cavalier)


La Vie, l'amour, la mort (Love, Life, Death) (Lelouch); Les Gauloises bleues (Cournot); La Chamade (Heartbeat) (Cavalier); Une Infinie tendresse (Jallaud)


L'Américain (Bozzuffi); Un Homme qui me plaît (Love Is a Funny Thing) (Lelouch)


Le Voyou (The Crook; Storia di una Canaglia) (Lelouch); La Poudre d'escampette (Touch and Go) (de Broca)


Chère Louise (Louise) (de Broca); L'Aventure, c'est l'aventure (Lelouch)


Le Magnifique (How to Destroy the Reputation of the Greatest Secret Agent) (de Broca); 1789 (Ariane Mnouchkine); L'Emmerdeur (The Pain in the Neck) (Molinaro)


Stavisky (Resnais); Vous ne l'emporterez pas au paradis (Dupont-Midy)


L'Incorrigible (de Broca); Monsieur Albert (Renard); Adieu Poulet (So Long Copper) (Granier-Deferre)


Tendre Poulet (Dear Detective) (de Broca); Un Autre homme et une autre chance (Simon et Sarah) (Lelouch)


Préparez vos mouchoirs (Get out Your Handkerchiefs) (Blier); Le Cavaleur (The Skirt Chaser) (de Broca); L'Homme en colère (Pinoteau)


On a volé la cuisse de Jupiter (de Broca); Cappotto di astrakan (The Persian Lamb Coat) (Vicario)


Le Professionnel (Lautner); Psy (de Broca); Garde à vue (Under Suspicion) (Miller); T'empêches tout le monde de dormir (Lauzier)


La Balance (The Nark) (Swaim); Pauline à la plage (Rohmer)


Le Marginal (The Outsider) (Deray); La Vie est un roman (Life Is a Bed of Roses) (Resnais)


L'Amour à mort (Resnais); Les Nuits de pleine lune (Full Moon in Paris) (Rohmer); Staline (Aurel)


Hold-up (Arcady); Tranches de vie (Leterrier)


Der Name der Rose (The Name of the Rose) (Annaud); Ginger e Fred (Fellini); Rue du départ (Gatlif)


Cronaca di una morte annunciata (Chronicle of a Death Foretold) (Rossi) (+ role as Pattos); Dernier Eté à Tanger (Acardy); Exploits d'un jeune Don Juan (Mingozza);Famiglia (Ettore Scola); Flag (Santi); Les Fous de Bassan (In the Shadow of the Wind) (Yves Simoneau); Giono Prima (Control) (Montaldo); Ennemis intimes (Amar);Oeil au beurre noir (Meynard)


Nuovo cinema paradiso (Cinema Paradiso) (Tornatore); La Revolution française: Les années lumiere (co; Enrico and Heffron); L'Ami retrouvé (Schatzberg); Vanille Française (Oury); Ague di Primavera (Torrents of Spring) (Skolimowski )


Au Bonheur des chiens (Tessori)


Afraid of the Dark (Peploe); Rue Saint Sulpice (Lewin);Impromptu (Lapine)


Becoming Colette (Huston); Rey Pasmado (The King Struck Dumb) (Uribe); Map of the Human Heart (Ward); Sarafina! (Roodt)


Nuit Sacrée (Klotz); A l'Heure ou les grandes fauves vont boire (When the Jungle Cats Go to Drink) (Jolivet); Ruptures (Citti); Una Pura Formalita (Une simple formalité; A Simple Formality) (Tornatore)


Prince of Jutland (Axel); Le Colonel Chabert (Angelo); La Prédiction (Ryazanov)


By MNOUCHKINE: articles—

Film Français (Paris), no. 1837, December 1980; no. 1976, January 1984; no. 2000, August 1984; no. 2292, April 1990.

Cinématographe (Paris), no. 100, May 1984.

Première (Paris), no. 145, April 1989.

On MNOUCHKINE: articles—

Cinéma Français (Paris), no. 10, 1977.

Film Français (Paris), no. 1843, January 1981; no. 2449, April 1993;

nos. 2453/4, May 1993.

Cinéma, no. 293, May, 1983.

"Alexandre Mnouchkine and Georges Dancigers," in Les Producteurs (Paris), 1986.

Mills, Nancy, "Lights, Action, Revolution," in American Film, October 1989.

Screen International, no. 904, April 1993.

Obituary in New York Times, 7 April 1993.

Obituary in Variety (New York), 12 April 1993.

Facts on File, 15 April 1993.

Classic Images, no. 215, May 1993.

Studio Magazine, no. 73, May 1993.

* * *

After fleeing to Paris from Stalinist Russia, Alexandre Mnouchkine took French citizenship and found work as a props man with René Clair. By 1932, his boundless enthusiasm for filmmaking and organizational skills saw him installed as administrator at Majestic films, and by 1938, he had gained his first production credits for Léo Joannon's action-packed sea drama, Alerte en Mediterranée. With the relaunch of French filmmaking after the Occupation, Mnouchkine joined with fellow emigré Georges Dancigers and Francis Cosne to create Les Films Ariane which remained an influential force in French film production for over forty years.

As chief executive of Ariane, Mnouchkine has been identified with over one hundred films, though his individual production credits are considerably fewer. In practice he and Dancigers worked closely together, and although occasionally one or the other took sole responsibility for a given film, they were more often than not coproducers. As a relatively small company, Ariane was frequently involved in coproductions, largely in France and in Italy, but also in Canada, notably for Claude Pinoteau's L'Homme en colère (1978), Alexandre Arcady's Hold-up (1985) and Yves Simoneau's Les Fous de Bassan (1987). In those instances where Ariane was the moving force, Mnouchkine and Dancigers committed themselves completely to the production, from the script to the publicity launch.

Although recognizing the undoubted value of stars to a film's success, their prime consideration was always a quality scenario. Rather than deal with ready-made scripts, they invited treatment of a given subject and were prepared not only to invest considerable sums in these commissions, but also to abandon a film at the shooting stage if they were unhappy. Though there were failures, the impressive list of successes reflects their shrewd judgement of public taste, their instinct for a good script, and their insistence that quality should never be compromised. Over the years an array of directors and stars enhanced their own careers in films either produced, coproduced or in part financed by the Ariane Company: the names of Jean Cocteau, Philippe de Broca, Julien Duvivier, Claude Lelouch, Claude Miller, Bob Swain, Alain Resnais, Eric Rohmer, Edouard Molinaro or Bertrand Blier testify to the rich diversity amongst directors, while an equally impressive roll-call of stars includes Gérard Philipe, Fernandel, Jean Gabin, Gérard Depardieu, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Michel Piccoli, Philipe Noiret, Michel Simon, Lina Ventura, Brigitte Bardot, Annie Girardot, Catherine Deneuve, Gina Lollobrigida and Martine Carol.

The early link with Cocteau was a fortunate beginning: Dancigers produced L'Aigle à deux têtes (1948) and Mnouchkine and Cosne, Les Parents terribles (1949). The fifties brought comedies with Gilles Grangier (L'Homme de joie, l950, and L'Amant de paille, 1950) and Julien Duvivier (Le Retour de Don Camillo, 1956), while Gérard Philipe was given the opportunity to direct himself as the swashbuckling hero of Les Aventures de Till l'Espiègle (1957). However, the most fruitful association in this decade came with Christian-Jaque for whom Mnouchkine and Dancingers produced a series of popular romantic adventures. The first was the hugely successful Fanfan la Tulipe (1952), which brought together Gérard Philipe and Gina Lollobrigida in the first of many Franco-Italian coproductions. Equally colourful period costume dramas followed in which Jaque displayed his wife Martine Carol as the lead in Lucrèce Borgia (1953) and Madame du Barry (1954). After Si Tous les gars du monde (1956), a dramatic story scripted by Henri Clouzot about a stricken fishing boat, Jaque returned to more typical territory with lightweight vehicles for Fernandel (La Loi, c'est la loi, 1958) and Brigitte Bardot (Babette s'en va-t-en guerre, 1959).

The cost-cutting production methods of the New Wave movement left Mnouchkine and Dancigers unmoved. In the sixties and seventies their instincts proved correct with box-office successes directed by Philippe de Broca and Claude Lelouch. They kept faith with de Broca after the failed romantic comedy L'Amant de cinq jours (1961) and went on to produce a series of highly popular, often tongue-in-cheek, action films set in exotic locations, in which Jean-Paul Belmondo teamed up with attractive female co-stars: Claudia Cardinale in Cartouche (1961); Françoise Dorléac in L'Homme de Rio (1964); Ursula Andress in Les Tribulations d'un Chinois en Chine (1965) and in 1975 with Geneviève Bujold for L'Incorrigible. Under the Ariane umbrella, de Broca also directed the desert war drama, La Poudre d'escampette (1970) with Michel Piccoli; the sentimental Chère Louise (1972) with Jeanne Moreau; and romantic comedies starring Annie Girardot and Philippe Noiret: Tendre Poulet (1977) and On a volé la cuisse de Jupiter (1979), while in Le Cavaleur (1978) Girardot was joined by Danielle Darrieux. The final de Broca/Ariane production was a gentle satire on group psychotherapy, Psy (1981).

The association with Lelouch brought romantic dramas which were essentially thematic variations on Un homme et une femme, largely differentiated by their locations and leading players. In Vivre pour vivre (1967), political and emotional involvements tested Yves Montand and Annie Girardot; in Un Homme qui me plaît (1969), Girardot and Belmondo enjoyed a chance encounter in America; in Un Autre homme, une autre chance (1977), James Caan and Geneviève Bujold starred in a virtual remake of Un Homme et une femme given an American setting. Other films included the portrait of a murderer (La Vie, l'amour, la mort, 1968); a gangster film with Lino Ventura (L'Aventure, c'est l'aventure, 1972) and Jean-Louis Trintignant as a crooked lawyer in Le Voyou (1977). The decade also saw the production of Resnais' political drama Stavisky (1974), Blier's Oscar-winning comedy Préparez vos mouchoirs (1978) with Gérard Depardieu as the husband seeking ways to dispel his wife's depression, and a filmed performance of Ariane Mnouchkine's documentary play 1789.

Among the more notable films in the eighties, were Claude Miller's taut psychological thriller Garde à vue (1981), Bob Swain's award-winning Parisian gangster story, La Balance (1982), and Jacques Deray's Le Marginal (1983) with Belmondo as the tough detective investigating drug dealers.

Although largely associated with popular entertainment films, Ariane's support for more highbrow productions is evidenced by the company's backing for Alain Resnais' Stavisky (1974), La Vie est un roman (1983) and L'Amour à mort (1984), and for Eric Rohmer's Pauline à la plage (1982) and Les Nuits de pleine lune (1984).

After suffering a serious heart attack in 1981, Mnouchkine resigned as head of Ariane, but continued as a producer and production adviser. His final credits included Jean-Jacque Annaud's fourteenth-century mystery thriller Der Name der rose (1986), the historical reconstruction La Revolution française (1989), Guiseppe Tornatore's nostalgic Cinema paradiso (1989), Eldar Ryazanov's tale of fortune-telling, La Prédiction (1994), while his Russian location experience served Yves Angelo for Le Colonel Chabert (1994). It was during the shooting of Tornatore's thriller Una pura formalita (1993) that "Sania," as Alexandre Mnouchkine was affectionately known, suffered his fatal illness. His life-long partner, Georges Dancigers, survived him by barely seven months, but their joint Ariane legacy leaves a lasting monument of well-produced films.

—R. F. Cousins