The 1966 French film A Man And A Woman was an unexpected hit—a lowbudget, simple love story that became one of the most popular movies of that decade. Directed, photographed and written by Claude Lelouch, it starred Anouk Aimée as a young, widowed script girl who met and fell in love with a widowed racing-car driver, played by Jean-Louis Trintignant. The movie won two Academy Awards as well as the Golden Palm Award (Palme d ’Or ) at that year's Cannes Film Festival. This spring Lelouch released A Man and a Woman: 20 Years Later, with the same stars. The script girl is now a film producer and the racing-car driver is a race executive. Its popularity may rival that of the original. It opens in Toronto this fall. Maclean’s correspondent Madeleine Czigler interviewed Lelouch at his home in Paris’.
Maclean’s: Why did you decide to make the sequel?
Lelouch: I have wanted to make a sequel since the film obtained the Palme d’Or 20 years ago. It first started out as a
joke. We said to each other, ‘Rendezvous in 20 years to make the sequel,’ just for a laugh. But then I thought about it again seriously about five years ago and consulted Jean-Louis and Anouk. Essentially, I wanted to make an optimistic film as a followup: the characters have more experience—they love, but with more anguish. I think the two films should be considered as one.
Maclean’s: Will North
Americans like this film as much as they enjoyed the first?
Lelouch: I just came back from Los Angeles, where I took part in a lot of sneak previews and they went very well. I think Americans will like this film because old age is not presented as a terrifying fault. It is a film which shows the beauty of wrinkles. Anouk and Jean-Louis are better now than 20 years ago.
Maclean’s: Critics accuse you of only being able to make one kind of film. Are they right?
Lelouch: Critics reproach me for only making a ‘Lelouch’ —but I am given a lot of money to make a ‘Lelouch.’ People either love my work or they detest it. An artist is either hated or loved. But an artist is not a politician; he should not be engaged in politics. When I became an artist I made a choice. I don’t try to seduce my enemies. If I did, I would betray my friends. An artist has to be everything but Judas. Maclean’s: You have said that you and François Truffaut represent the French cinema tradition. What is that tradition? Lelouch: Truffaut represents French tradition more than myself. Truffaut follows Jean Renoir. As for me, there is no real influence. I am selftaught. Each time a Truffaut film came out, a Lelouch would be coming out too. And while our films are opposites, we are both in the French tradition. We love our country and talk about what we love. I was very touched by his death—we were almost the same age.
Maclean’s: Why do you often work with the same actors in your films?
Lelouch: I make films with my friends, I live with my friends. This way, I am less unhappy than my colleagues.
Maclean’s: Have you always made the films you wanted?
Lelouch: I have always done what I wanted to. Even my bad films—I claim them totally as my own. And I know I have never entirely succeeded in making the film. For me—myself. I know I have made good film sequences, but I dream of making that perfect film. I have decided to dedicate my life to making that film. Besides, my private life is turbulent, so my films reflect that. But my enthusiasm for the business remains.
Maclean’s: In 20 Years Later one of your characters says, ‘It's a simple story which should have stayed simple.’ Is that a prophetic statement about this film?
Lelouch: Yes, it’s a bit prophetic. That is what is so exciting. For the moment, this film is ahead of its time. And perhaps that is why I like it more and more. I am
becoming a bit more complicated because I have seen too many films and have made too many films. The audience sees fewer films than we [the directors] do. So at a certain point we take distance from each other. It is obvious that [Italian film director Federico] Fellini is becoming a superchamp, but it is getting
harder and harder for the audience to follow him. There are many moviemakers like that. I have a feeling now that the audience has a harder time following me than before. I am afraid that in the future, I will stop being a commercial film-maker. If I don’t feel like cater-
ing to public tastes, I risk distancing myself from the public.
Maclean’s: Which of your films is the best?
Lelouch: A director cannot really answer that type of question. I always like to think it’s my last. You feel you have gone further with the last. Perhaps a film which seemed successful to me may not be the same for the public. The public likes entertainment, pleasure; the public likes to be flattered, not insulted. When people are seated in the dark, they dream and feel they are the strongest, most beautiful, most intelligent. They do not like to be insulted.
Maclean’s: Are American movies overpowering the European film industry? Lelouch: In the 30 years I have been making films, there has always been a crisis. When I told my father thirty years ago that I wanted to make movies, he said, ‘Son, there is a crisis.’ Maclean’s: What do you like most about your work?
Lelouch: What is the most interesting for me is that element of the uncontrollable. It is the things I cannot rehearse. In Deauville [France, where scenes in both films were shot], on the beach, it was the light. That light which suddenly came up and without which the beach would be nothing. Don’t be mistaken, miracles are the direct result of work.sÿ
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