Six biographical essays that go beyond his character

François Truffaut, filmmaker literate

In one sentence:walk through the director’s correspondence with writers.

As Bertrand Bastide reminds us in his introduction, François Truffaut was one “compulsive letter writer” which he left after his death in 1984 several thousand letters piled up in 122 archive boxes. In this volume, we find those that this annoying writer addressed to genuine writers, whether out of sheer admiration, sometimes out of friendship, and others in the context of his work as a journalist, critic, or director. This gives a great variety to these exchanges, and reserves some pleasant surprises. Following the example of the unexpected correspondence with Louise de Vilmorin, who ingeniously describes her room in the disease, attracting a charming post-date compliment to the answer: “Eighty-three years old, you said I had one, let me tell you that you wear a third … in broad daylight?”

With Jacques Audiberti, collaborator of Movie notebookswe talk more about the amount of professional fees, delay in sending the copy, sorry for misspellings, “the restoration of one word that leads to the anamorphosis of another”written a little contrite by the person signing “truffault”. They also argue for Ava Gardner The Barefoot Countessa film that the playwright finds too long, lamenting the improbability of the scene where she dances with gypsies between Menton and Cannes, at the risk of “curl the bass operetta”.

It became fascinating when Henri-Pierre Roché, the author of Jules and Jim, trust your letters that you would like “Write dialogues that are both airy and tight”. To Ray Bradbury, from whom he adapted Fahrenheit 451Truffaut admits that he wants to “Fahrenheit is the first European science fiction film”. He implores Serge Rezvani to move from painting to writing: “When you are very old », Replies the painter, reluctant to do so “soul striptease”. Fortunately, the admirable writer of Testament of love he ended up listening to his friend’s advice.

«Correspondence with writers, 1948-1984», by François Truffaut, 528 p., 24 euros, Gallimard.

The Rezvani, all love

In one sentence: a double witness to creation and love passion.

At the age of 93, in solitary confinement, isolated in a Parisian apartment, Serge Rezvani recalls his life through what made him live: painting. But like everyone who has already read one of the vibrant works of the lyricist of the Tourbillonthe unforgettable song from the Truffaut movie, Jules and Jim, his true reason for living, for half a century, was the crazy love that united him to his wife, Danièle Rezvani, who died in 2004, after a decade of long descent into the shadows of Alzheimer’s .

This extraordinary passion can be relived almost every day through the Notebooks of Danièle, to whom she had given this name, written between “La Béate”, this farmhouse lost to the Moors where the two lovers had decided to dedicate themselves only to themselves, and Venice, their second nest of love where they went staying regularly during their last couple years. In his book he also tells us about Picasso, Cocteau, Eluard, Staël, Dalí, imprisoned between Senequier, Bonnieux and Montparnasse, and the art dealers, whom he did not take to heart. Daniele practically only talks about this man to whom, just as a teenager, he devoted himself in body and soul. In this way two touching love songs are given, which sometimes bring the reader to the brink of tears, inspired by a magnificent and singular intimate adventure which, by the miracle of writing, they achieve, in spite of death. of Lula, put a common end point. .

“Beauty I write your name”, by Serge Rezvani, 216 p., 21.50 euros, and “Les Carnets de Lula” by Danièle Rezvani, 236 p., 21.50 euros, Les Belles Lettres.

Serge Rezvani in Paris on October 6, 2015.Joel SAGET / AFP

Marcel Proust, before the Jews

In one sentence: research on the reception of his masterpiece by the Jewish community.

How did the Jews of France receive Proust’s work, where anti-Semitism sometimes appears in the living room? Did the partly Jewish origins of the author of “Recherche du temps perdu” influence his way of writing and the reception he received from the Jewish community? Antoine Compagnon leads the research based on a series of period documents and photographs. This allows him to return to another of his favorite writers, Montaigne, a half-Jew like Proust, as the parallelism has often been drawn, in the 1920s, between these two classics. From André Gide to the great critic Albert Thibaudet to Albert Cohen, the two have often been compared, to the philosopher Henri Bergson who says of the novelist: “His sick room was his Montaigne tower.”

A more controversial issue, the incriminating portraits of a Bloch or a Rachel in Proust’s work have been presented as a kind of“preventive anti-Semitism”, in short, as a system of defense against the rise of truth that was already thriving in the 1920s, around a Maurice Barrès or an Edouard Drumont. These concessions to the evil spirit of the times will increasingly be seen as a dangerous game in the face of the Nazi threat. More literary is the development that the professor emeritus of the College de France dedicates to this “conventional” which is the link established between the Proustian style and the “rabbinic style”. Some commentators, echoed much later by Julia Kristeva in her study of Proust, even go so far as to explain Proust’s theory of men and women in Sodom and Gomorrah for Kabbalah! Magnificent academic research that reads like a soap opera.

“Proust on the Jewish Side”, by Antoine Compagnon, 430 p., 132 illustrations, 32 euros, Gallimard.

Cléo de Mérode (1875-1966), French dancer, photographed by Paul Nadar in 1894.

Cléo de Mérode (1875-1966), French dancer, photographed by Paul Nadar in 1894.Paul Nadar / Roger Viollet Collection

Cléo de Mérode, the first French star

In one sentence: the dancer who electrified the Belle Epoque.

Born of a baroness mother, she will be a dancer. Cléopâtre-Diane de Mérode will be known throughout France by her stage name, Cléo de Mérode. An icon of the Belle Epoque, she will be the first real media star, popularized by thousands of photo cards that will make her a world star, subject to many fantasies. Impossible for her to move without being attacked by fans asking for her autographs. A formidable dancer, she left the Paris Opera when she was only 20 years old to perform in popular shows. Cléo the scandalous, repeatedly insulted by the well-meaning press, was above all a refined and cultured woman, muse of artist, photographed by Paul Nadar, sculpted by Alexandre Falguière, painted by Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec or Boldini.

Proclaimed queen of beauty, for a long time she will embody the image of Paris. In the 1950s, after leaving the stage fifteen years earlier, people still attended their “classical-style maintenance and dance classes for girls.” After listening to Simone de Beauvoir one day on the radio The second sexhe called her “prostitute”, she will sue him. And it will never cease to challenge the image of demi-mondaine that we have tried to attach to it. A professor at the University of Paris VIII, a specialist in women’s history, Yannick Ripa gives us a vibrant book of emotion about this great lady of French culture.

“Cléo de Mérode, icon of the Belle Epoque”, by Yannick Ripa. Tallandier Editions, 329 pages, 21.90 euros.

Françoise Hardy, January 5, 1985, during the show 'La belle vie' in Paris.

Françoise Hardy, January 5, 1985, during the show ‘La belle vie’ in Paris.Georges BENDRIHEM / AFP

Françoise Hardy, the magnetic artist

In one sentence: intimate portrait of a French icon.

If portraiture is the art of capturing rather than describing, then Marie-Dominique Lelièvre is proud of this dangerous exercise. After Gainsbourg, Sagan, Bardot or Saint-Laurent, the journalist and novelist tackles another monument of French culture. Let’s face it, it is Françoise Hardy it is a model of this type, the meeting between two talents, that of the biographer and that of the artist, without a doubt one of the most mysterious of the yé-yé pantheon where he evolved without ever tarnishing his image.

Becoming a star at the age of 18, keeping her real name when others choose Hallyday or Anthony, Françoise the Magnificent has walked her mystery for more than fifty years, often imprisoned under the influence of a visceral fear of the crowd, absent from the world and in fact untouchable as only true stars are. The author visits closely the sensitive mastery of Françoise, stunning beauty, magnetic voice, author and performer of unforgettable songs that, all or almost, speak of her melancholy, her simplicity, her immense elegance above all. Françoise Hardy A distant star, yes, but so close at the same time “Françoise Hardy: A distant star”, by Marie-Dominique Lelièvre. Flammarion, 299 p., 21.50 euros.

Serge Gainsbourg, the art of staging

In one sentence: the itinerary of an artist obsessed with beauty.

Barefoot in his white Repetto, navy open shirt, ripped jeans and ultra-tight jacket, Gainsbourg was above all a carefully studied look, which obviously played a big role in building his image. But the artist was not only the result of her appearance, explains in this fascinating book Marie-Christine Natta, also the author of a remarkable thesis on dandyism. By seizing, precisely, of a “Great Dandy Road” so often portrayed as such, it shows that one does not dandy, it is, so much so that this state, though worked afterwards, is consubstantial to the personality.

Gainsbourg, then, was born dandy, and the portrait that the author paints through this prism further reinforces the striking imprint that the singer-songwriter left in the French imagination. Esteta, lover of the useless as long as he is beautiful, provocative to cure his shyness, ugly boy who has become handsome, charismatic by virtue of mystery, very nice doing bad, constantly flirting with limits, not forgetting his pronounced taste. for eroticism: this revisits the many facets of Serge Gainsbourg, painting a very original portrait of the man. A success.

“Serge Gainsbourg: Making of a Dandy,” by Marie-Christine Natta. Editions Passés / composites, 371 p., 23 euros.

Leave a Comment