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Mnouchkine, Alexandre

MNOUCHKINE, ALEXANDRE

MNOUCHKINE, ALEXANDRE (1908–1993), French film producer. Mnouchkine was born in Petrograd, Russia. One of the most influential producers in France, his endeavors left their mark on French cinema from the 1930s through the 1980s. He produced films with most of the great artists of his time, and a number of his films are among the greatest box office successes of France. He founded Majestic Films which operated from 1935 to 1940, and from 1945 he was chairman of Ariane Films.

Among the films he produced were Les parents terribles (1948), Fanfan la Tulipe (1951), Babette s'en va-t-en guerre (1959), Cartouche (1961), L'Homme de Rio (1965), Le Train (1964), Stavisky (1974), Garde a vue (1981), and La Balance (1983).

His daughter ariane (1939– ) is the founder and main director of the world-famous theater, Theatre du Soleil (established 1964). Mnouchkine and the actors in her company – most of whom come from academic backgrounds – live together in a kind of commune. Their creative activities take place in a former ammunition warehouse in a Paris suburb which was put at their disposal in 1972. They renovated the building and turned it into a theater setting, La Cartouche de Vincennes.

In 1960 Mnouchkine established the atep, the Paris University Theater. She studied the forms of Oriental theater in Cambodia and Japan in 1962. The Theatre du Soleil had its initial success with its presentation of The Kitchen by Arnold Wesker which was given in a Circus Medrano tent. The world-wide reputation of the theater was gained by its performance of 1789 in Milan in 1970 and of 1793 in Paris in 1972. The Mnouchkine formula for total theater includes physical expression and body language, the use of elements taken from the circus world, and audience participation. The performances also demonstrated a politically left-wing outlook on life.

A movie made by the Theatre du Soleil on the life of Molière was also a great success. In 1984 Mnouchkine participated very successfully in the Los Angeles international theater festival where the troupe presented three plays by Shakespeare, Richard ii, Henry iv, and Twelfth Night in a Japanese-Oriental adaptation. In 1992 she presented her production of Les Atrides in England.

[Gideon Kouts]

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