Obituary: Alexandre Mnouchkine

Alexandre Mnouchkine, film producer: born Petrograd 10 February 1908, married June Hannen (two daughters), secondly Simone Renant; died Paris 3 April 1993.

AS PRODUCER or executive producer, Alexandre Mnouchkine was associated with some of the most memorable French films of the Forties, Fifties and Sixties.

Arriving in Paris from his native Soviet Union after graduating, Mnouchkine entered the film industry in 1932, and started his own production company in 1945. He called it Ariane, after one of his two daughters (who was later to gain fame in her own right, as the guiding force behind the influential Theatre du Soleil). Like many small production companies, Ariane often worked in conjunction with others. Mnouchkine was fortunate in acquiring the services of Jean Cocteau in 1948, when Cocteau was still furthering the career of his lover and protege Jean Marais. He had written two plays with that in mind, L'Aigle a deux tetes and Les Parents terribles, which Mnouchkine enabled him to film, respectively in 1948 and 1949.

As on the stage, the former starred Marais and Edwige Feuillere - and it is difficult now to see why, even in a post-war world longing for escapism, this was taken seriously, some high-flown tosh about an anarchist, Marais, who enters a Ruritanian castle to assassinate a queen, Feuillere, but stays to fall in love with her. But the decor, by Christian Berard and Georges Wakevitch, makes up for a lot. Les Parents terribles, based on Marais's stormy relationship with his own mother - on stage and on screen, the magnificent Yvonne de Bray - stands up much better.

Mnouchkine worked with another leading player, Gerard Philipe, when he produced a swashbuckler, Fanfan- La-Tulipe (1951), which the director Christian-Jaque made much more light-hearted than the 1925 original. It was one of Gina Lollobrigida's steps to her rather uncertain stardom, but Mnouchkine had a genuine star when he was executive producer of Babette s'en va-t-en guerre (1959). She was Brigitte Bardot, and she chose to do this mild comedy instead of taking up any of the numerous Hollywood offers.

The emergence of the nouvelle vague shook the French film industry to its foundations, but its producers could decide which of the young Turks they would find financing for. Mnouchkine settled on Philippe de Broca, who had made his name with some charming off-beat comedies. When L'Homme de Rio (1964) opened it was the only picture anyone talked about in Paris; you had to queue to see it even though it was playing at a dozen cinemas, and Paris was plastered with posters boasting '1,000 Exploits Belmondesques]' - for the star was Jean-Paul Belmondo, the nouvelle vague's favourite actor. Mnouchkine was also one of the writers of the film, in which Belmondo escaped death a thousand times, whether teetering on the half-built skyscrapers of Brasilia or hoisting himself out of a river jammed with crocodiles.

Belmondo, de Broca and Mnouchkine were reunited for a follow-up, Les Tribulations d'un Chinois en Chine (1965; Up to his Ears for Britain and the US). Belmondo chose Mnouchkine to be his co-producer of Stavisky (1974), directed by Alain Resnais. Belmondo made it because he believed he owed his acclaim to the directors of the nouvelle vague, of whom Resnais was a leading light, but when he looked at the receipts of his recent films for them he decided to stick with purely commercial ventures.

Belmondo had had one of his biggest hits with Un homme qui me plait, with Annie Girardot, as a French couple uneasily failing in love as they travelled through the United States, a country which fascinated them and appalled them at the same time. It was the first of some dozen movies which Claude Lelouch made with backing partly provided by Mnouchkine, including Vivre pour vivre (1967) and Un autre homme, une autre femme (1977). This last, as the title proclaims, is virtually a remake of Lelouch's Un homme et une femme (1969), set in America's old West. And there is its virtue: Lelouch is not afraid of plagiarising himself. Or of excess. The films of Lelouch, outside France, had critics in despair and audiences indifferent, but they are redeemed by two features, wit (no one can send up Lelouch as well as himself) and a brilliant use of cinema (Lelouch is usually director, writer, cameraman, editor, you name it).

The last two notable films with which Mnouchkine is associated are a far cry from L'Aigle a deux tetes: both are excellent thrillers. Claude Miller's Garde a vue (1981) is a cat-and-mouse cop tale. And Bob Swaim's La Balance (1982) is an account, often riveting, of the double-dealing and double-crossing apparently essential to the drugs trade in Paris.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits