Death of Jean-Claude Carrière, a fascinating ferryman

If you ever hear me complaining, slap me without hesitation. I had an amazing pot. I, the son of a peasant, had the life I would not have dared to wish for. Luis Buñuel, with whom he worked for 19 years, was amused by his constant wonder. With a slightly singing accent, Jean-Claude Carrière generously welcomed visitors to his mansion at 9e arrondissement of Paris, happy to be able to share its treasures: a place – a former brothel where Toulouse-Lautrec had set up his workshop – with an astonishing history, collections of masks and rare books, statuettes and works found all over the world …

At the origins …

This is because Jean-Claude Carrière has never forgotten where he came from: Colombières-sur-Orb, in the Hérault, where he was born in 1931. Better yet: he returned and recharged his batteries with delight. The vagaries of the war had pushed his parents, wine growers, to abandon their grape varieties to go to the capital and open a café in Montreuil, in Seine-Saint-Denis. The child spotted at ten years old by his masters for his abilities becomes a dissipated but brilliant adolescent: hypokhâgne, khâgne and Normal-Sup in Saint-Cloud.

→ READ. Jean-Claude Carrière, faithful heir to a vanished peasantry

Married early to Augusta who will become a painter and with whom he will have a daughter named Iris at 31, he sells his cartoons to newspapers. His future seems all mapped out: history teacher in a provincial high school. But his encounters, caused by Robert Laffont, the publisher of his first novel, Lizard, decide otherwise.

To this young man who, at 13, discovered cinema with The dictator by Chaplin, Laffont presents Jacques Tati. ” Show him what cinema is », Launches the director to his editor who projects him Mr. Hulot’s Vacation while sliding the script in front of his eyes. ” The whole problem is to go from this to that », She comments, going from writing to screen.

Jean-Claude Carrière innovates two films by Tati with illustrations by Pierre Etaix. He made his debut as a screenwriter with the latter, before entering into a fruitful collaboration with Luis Buñuel for the writing of films like The Diary of a Chambermaid, Beautiful day, The discreet charm of the bourgeoisie and That Obscure Object of Desire.

Great directors

Contacted by great directors – Louis Malle, Jean-Luc Godard, Volker Schlöndorff, Andrzej Wajda, Milos Forman -, he accepts, not without a little heartache: “ What if Fellini called? I still couldn’t tell him I’m busy … “A wish that will not come true, but the screenwriter consoles himself by chaining successes, like The swimming pool by Jacques Deray, The Return of Martin Guerre (for which he obtained a César for best screenplay) by Daniel Vigne, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Philippe Kaufman, Cyrano de Bergerac by Jean-Paul Rappeneau, The White Ribbon by Michael Haneke. In 1986, he participated in the founding of Fémis, the national cinema school, which he chaired for ten years.

A historical controversy

In parallel to sixty screenplays for the cinema, Jean-Claude Carrière also writes for television, in particular The Valladolid Controversy. Despite its arid subject (the debate led in the 16th century on the fate to be reserved for the Amerindians in the conquest of the New World), this TV movie is remembered.

A playwright for the theater and author of opera librarians, this passionate devotees eleven years of his life to adapting the Mahabharata, the great Indian epic, with Peter Brook to the stage. Without truce, he publishes books, more than sixty, in which he happily cultivates the ” gay know In the most varied fields – think of its dictionaries devoted to stupidity, India and Mexico.

Defining himself above all as a “smuggler” in the service of others – Buñuel was amused by his absence of ego, in reality an ability to adapt to the world of a director – this hard worker spoke in a book with the Dalai Lama, deepened his knowledge of Buddhism, wrote a remarkable essay on fragility, proving an exceptional talent to reconcile creativity and wisdom. The age hardly starting his activity, he had yet written an essay in 2018, The valley of nothingness, and co-signed in 2020 the scenario of Salt of tears, film by Philippe Garrel.

Atheist in love with religions

A man with many lives, Jean-Claude Carrière married, after the disappearance of his first wife, Nahal Tajadod, Iranian woman of letters, with whom he has a daughter, Kiara, in 2003. Of this late child, he told The cross shortly after his birth: ” I know I will have less time to spend with her. I want to give him all I can. I often wonder how this little Franco-Iranian will go through life. Real questions on the eve of joining non-being …

→ ARCHIVES. Meeting with Jean-Claude Carrière, in January 2004

Atheist in love with religions, Jean-Claude Carrière has reserved his place in the Colombières cemetery. ” Two hundred and fifty meters separate my place of birth from that where I will be buried. This is where I started, this is where I will end.


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