Rappeneau, Jean-Paul

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Writer and Director. Nationality: French. Born: Auxerre, 8 April 1932. Education: Attended Lycée Jacques-Amyot, Auxerre; Law Faculty, Paris. Family: Married Claude-Lise Cornély, 1971; two sons. Career: 1953–55—assistant director; 1955–57—production manager of short films; 1957—script writer; 1958—began directing films. Awards: Prix Louis Delluc for La Vie de château, 1966; Special Jury Prize at the Karlovy-Vary Festival, 1966. Member: President of ADRC (Agence pour le Dévelopment Régional du Cinéma), 1991. Address: 24 rue Henri Barbusse, 75005 Paris, France.

Films as Writer:


Entre la terre et le ciel (Vilardebo—short)


Chronique provinciale (+ d—short); Signé Arsène Lupin (Robert)


Zazie dans le métro (Zazie) (Malle); "Le Mariage" ep. of La Française et l'amour (Love and the Frenchwoman) (Clair)


La Vie privée (A Very Private Affair) (Malle); Le Combat dans l'íîle (Cavalier)


L'Homme de Rio (That Man from Rio) (de Broca)


La Fabuleuse Aventure de Marco Polo (Marco the Magnificent) (de la Patellière, Howard, and Christian-Jaque)


La Vie de château (A Matter of Resistance) (+ d)


Les Mariés de l'an II (+ d)


Le Sauvage (+ d)


Tout feu, tout flamme (+ d)


Cyrano de Bergerac (+ d)


Le Hussard sur le toit (The Horseman on the Roof) (+ d)


By RAPPENEAU: articles—

Cinéma (Paris), February 1965.

Art et Essai (Paris), February 1966.

La Vie de Château (script) in Avant-Scène (Paris), April 1966.

Cinéma (Paris), May 1966.

Show Business (Paris), 26 March 1971.

Cinéma (Paris), June 1971.

Film Français (Paris), 23 May 1978.

Unifrance Film (Paris), February 1982.

Cinématographe (Paris), February 1984.

Film Français (Paris), no. 2285, February 1990.

Studio Magazine (Paris), April 1990.

Première (Paris), no. 157, April 1990; September 1995.

Séquences (Montreal), September 1990.

Télérama (Paris), no. 2338, November 1994; no. 2384, September 1995.

Studio Magazine, no. 103, October 1995.

On RAPPENEAU: articles—

Chaplin (Stockholm), no. 2, 1970.

Cinématographe (Paris), July-August 1982.

Revue du Cinéma (Paris), no. 459, April 1990.

Empire, no. 19, January 1991; no. 80, February 1996.

Film Français (Paris), no. 2340, March; no. 2347, April; nos. 2348/9, May 1991.

Première (Paris), no. 208, July 1994.

Ciné-Bulles (Montreal), vol. 14, no. 4, Winter 1995.

Télérama (Paris), 11 January 1995.

Télérama (Paris), 23 September 1995.

Segnocinema (Vicenza), March/April 1996.

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Jean-Paul Rappeneau entered films in a traditional way, as a second assistant to Jean Dréville on Suspects, as collaborator on Vilardebo's short film Entre la terre et le ciel, and as the director of the short Chronique provinciale. During the next few years he concentrated on writing, and acquired a solid reputation with scripts for Signé Arsène Lupin, two films by Louis Malle, Zazie dans le métro and La Vie privée, and a short film by René Clair in La Française et l'amour. The commercially successful L'Homme de Rio, directed by Philippe de Broca and starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, was followed by an international co-production, La Fabuleuse Aventure de Marco Polo.

These films had crystalized his own tastes and ambitions, and in 1966 he directed his first long film, La Vie de château, a brilliant comedy situated in Normandy on the eve of the invasion by the allies during the Second World War. This film, showing a maturity unusual in a first work, is far from being a simple or banal entertainment. Using a humorous framework, Rappeneau describes a France that is both egotistical and on the sidelines, constructing its own happiness away from the world. Using a minutely planned scenario prepared with the collaboration of Claude Sautet and Alain Cavalier (with dialogue by Daniel Boulanger), the film is revealed as the work of an elegant filmmaker who is also sensible to the playing of the actors, particularly Catherine Deneuve, Pierre Brasseur, and Philippe Noiret. His next film, Les Mariés de l'an II, a comedy where heroism is mixed with romance and burlesque with tragedy, is set during the French Revolution, and belongs to the genre of Christian-Jaque's Fanfan la tulipe and Clair's Fêtes galantes. Other of his films confirm his professional qualities. If the social and psychological analysis in Tout feu, tout flamme does not always ring true, the action is vivid, the images (shot by Pierre L'Homme) and the charm of Yves Montand and Isabelle Adjani are memorable, and the result is a successful attempt to make a commercial film of quality.

After working previously with his own original scripts, Rappeneau turned his attention to adaptation, and to works he deemed initially to be unfilmable: Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac and Jean Giono's Le Hussard sur le toit. With Gérard Depardieu cast as the larger-than-life, swashbuckling romantic hero, Cyrano deservedly brought Rappeneau international attention. His version, co-adapted with Jean-Claude Carrière, retains the play's verse form and remains close to the original, with the seventeenth-century setting convincingly reproduced. The director's meticulous preparation is evident from the opening sequence in the theatre, the carefully choreographed sword fights and the impressively orchestrated battle scenes involving over 2000 extras. If Rappeneau was largely faithful to Rostand, in the case of Giono's Le Hussard sur le toit changes were necessary. Character motivation has been clarified and the narrative more tightly focused, but the essential story of unrequited love set against the beautiful Provence landscape remains intact. Careful attention to period detail once more characterizes the director's approach in his beautifully crafted evocation of 1830s France. Both films, along with productions such as Berri's Jean de Florette, Manon des Sources, or Germinal, are indicative of a particular trend in French filmmaking (not so far removed from post-war literary cinema) in which classic texts are transformed through film to become a new cultural phenomenon: heritage cinema.

—Karel Tabery, updated by R. F. Cousins