Bodard, Mag (c. 1927—)

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Bodard, Mag (c. 1927—)

Italian-French film producer responsible for the acclaimed Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Name variations: Margherita Perato. Born Margherita Perato in Turin, Italy, around 1927; attended Institution Mainterion in Paris, France; married Lucian Bodard (divorced after 25 years).

Selected filmography:

Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964); Le Bonheur (1965); Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1965); Benjamin Ou Les Memoirs D'un (1966); La Chinoise (1967); Mouchette (1967); Le Viol (1967); Peau d'Ane (1970).

Margherita Perato, who would be known as Mag, was born in Turin, in northern Italy, the daughter of winegrowers. At age five, she and two younger siblings went to live with their aunt and French-born uncle in Paris, where her parents thought the educational opportunities were

better. Mag attended the Institution Mainterion during the school year, returning to Italy for the summer months.

She was studying interior decorating at a private atelier when she met journalist Lucian Bodard. After their marriage, work often kept them apart; at the advent of World War II, Lucian was in England while Mag was in Paris, working as a designer. In an interview for The New Yorker in 1969, Mag Bodard was asked if she worked for the underground during the Occupation. "I did what was normal in my circle," she replied, "hid people who had to be hidden, passed letters that had to be passed."

Lucian Bodard worked for Agence France-Presse following the war. Because he had been born in China to a family of diplomats, he and Mag were sent to Southeast Asia where he was a correspondent for France-Soir. During the couples' stay in Vietnam, from 1948–55, Mag Bodard wrote articles about everyday life in Saigon for France-Soir as well as for Elle. Around the time of the siege at Dien Bien Phu, the turning point for the French in Vietnam, the articles were collected and published under the title C'est Aussi Comme Ca (It's Also Like That) to great success.

Upon returning to France, Bodard had a brief but unsuccessful excursion into television. Convinced that she was "in a new world now" and "it would be easier to reach the new world through pictures rather than words," she set out to make movies. In 1962, French director Jonathan Demy showed Bodard the script he had written for Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg). By then, Bodard had formed her own film company called Parc Film; under this banner, she managed to co-finance Demy's project with the help of America's 20th Century-Fox, Germany's Beta (a film distribution company), and France's Cinema Center (a collective of French producers). Overwhelmingly successful, the film won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1964. In the U.S., not only was the movie a huge commercial success, but Umbrellas was also nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Film category. Oddly, Bodard's native Italy was one of the few countries worldwide where the film failed.

Her next movie, Le Bonheur (Happiness), was one of Bodard's favorite projects. Directed by Agnes Varda , the work won a special jury prize at the Berlin Film Festival in 1965. "This film was very, very important," Bodard told an interviewer for The New Yorker. "It was a film made by a woman and it is exactly what goes on inside the head of every woman, except that she doesn't know it." Le Bonheur was one of several motion pictures produced by Bodard that were considered part of the cadre of the French "New Wave" movement. The films of this era dealt with the changing morals in relationships between men and women.

Following Le Bonheur, Bodard worked with several of the top French directors and produced films like Jean-Luc Godard's La Chinoise (The Chinese Girl), Robert Bresson's Mouchette, and Jacques Doniol-Valcroze's Le Viol (A Question of Rape). During this period, Bodard produced around 20 films. Mag Bodard was one of the few independent women producers of her day, as well as one of the most prolific.

sources:

Bergan, Ronald, and Robyn Karney, ed. The Holt Foreign Film Guide. NY: Henry Holt, 1988.

"Talk of the Town: Producer," in The New Yorker. January 4, 1969, p. 25–27.

Deborah Jones , Studio City, California