Patrice Leconte is a director, cartoonist and screenwriter, whose works amaze the audience through the perfect union between meticulousness and narrative lightness. Leconte is presently one of France’s most versatile and accomplished directors who delights in shifting genres and filming styles from one project to the next. During his career he has been able to shape iconic characters, gifted with an atypical vividness. After collaborating with Cahiesr du cinéma, he directed some short comedies before he decided to dedicate himself to feature films. While he was in Tours to attend the local Short film festival he fell in love with cinema and, at the age of twenty, moved to Paris where he studied at the Institut des hautes études cinèmatographiques. He acknowledges directors such as Fellini, Olmi and Antonioni as his source of inspiration, without hiding a sort of nostalgia for the old “Italian comedies”. In 1977 he had a moment of indecision on whether he had the capacities to be a film director and decided to enter the advertising world; it was then that Laconte made his first successful comedy entitled Le bronzès, giving rise to the longstanding collaboration with the actor company “Le Splendid”.
Tandem (1987) and Ridicule (1996) would follow, this latter awarding him the Cèsar prize for best film and best director and a nomination to the Academy Awards. More wide-ranging is the trilogy of Bronzès, acclaimed by the public and the critics and considered one of the best French movies. In 1999 Girl on the bridge appeared where Leconte uses soft black and white shades to analyze the enigmatic relationship between a knifethrower and a girl who would soon become his target girl, starring Vanessa Paradis. Unique to Leconte’s production is his capacity to maintain a perfect balance between comedy and drama, elegantly dealing with everyday life issues without losing his particularly ironic touch.
In 2002 his film The man on the train was welcomed at the 59° Venice Film festival, where it won the Audience Award for best movie; in 2012 his first animation movie The suicide shop appeared, presented at the Cannes Film Festival in the same year. In this work Leconte proves that animation can be uniquely suited to dark and sinister tales; an incorrigible comedian himself, his instinct makes him interpret the unmentionable theme of suicide into a curiously upbeat satire. His last film is Do not disturb (2014), a comedy where Michel, interpreted by Christian Clavier, has found a rare album that he dreams of quietly listening to in his own home, failing miserably.
As in his autobiography’s title, Patrice Leconte defines himself as a “smiling pessimist” and in an interview he suggests young aspiring filmmakers to have a passionate yet careful approach to cinema, both to understand the many technical aspect and the meaning of their works as directors. Quoting Leconte himeslf: “The most important thing you have to ask yourself is why you want to be a director. If the answer is “Because it is cool to do cinema”, I am afraid you got it wrong. When asked the same question in Cannes, Wim Wenders answered “To make the world a better place”; and at first I found him presumptuous, but I was stupid, because only later did I understand that he did not mean to say that cinema could make the world a better place, but that it did at least try”.
Selection of the movies presented:
The Hairdresser’s husband (Le mari de la coiffeuse, 1990)
When he was a young boy Antoine (Jean Rochefort) had developed an obsession for a hairdresser (Anna Galiena). When he manages to win her love and marry her the erotic attraction between the two will become totalizing and at the limit of the extreme, until they touch the limit and show the real fragility of the characters. Among the first successes of the director, it will be worth 7 nomination to the Cèsar prize.
Ridicule (Ridicule, 1996)
The Palace of Versailles; the Marquise de Malovoy (Charles Berlign) is an aristocrat from the provinces, who is a resourceful scientist hoping to drain the region’s mosquito-infested swamps in order to ensure better health for the local peasants. This humanitarian project requires money which can only be obtained from King. His initial intent fades into the background when he starts making his way in the court life and falls in love with Mathilde (Judith Godrèche). During a ball, the Marquise is made to fall and after this episode he decides to leave, not before delivering a speech where he denounces how “ridiculous” the people surrounding him are. The film got a “best foreign movie” Oscar nomination and won four statuettes at the Cèsar prize. Nowadays several specialized magazines acknowledge this film as one of the best French movies of all times.
Girl on a bridge (Le fille sur le pont, 1999)
The film reports about the daring adventures of Adèle (Vanessa Paradis), who intends to kill herself by jumping from a bridge, and Gabor (Daniel Auteuil) the knife thrower, who intervenes to prevent the suicide and persuades Adèle to become the target girl in his knifethrowing act. The relationship between the two is controversial and passionate right from the start, often destructive, to the point that Adèle will run away with a man she has met on the cruise ship. Gabor is forced to find a new assistant. The film is completed by a delicate use of black and white and a revealing soundtrack.
The window of Saint-Pierre (Le Veuve de Saint-Pierre, 2000)
It is 1849 and two sailors are about to be guillotined after having been accused of desertion. After one of the two dies, Ariel (Emir Kusturica) goes under the protective hand of Captain Jean (Daniel Auteuil) and his wife Madame La (Juliette Binoche). A long time goes by on the island waiting for the arrival of the lethal machine, and in this period; Ariel has the opportunity to prove his qualities to the villagers, and at the same time creates an atypical bond with the captain’s wife.
The man on the train (L’homme du train, 2002)
Milan (Johnny Hallyday) met a professor (Jean Rochefort) just after getting off the train in the small town of Annoyai. The two men strike up a deep friendship until the eldest finds out the young man’s criminal intentions. The professor is fascinated by the hard life of his new friend and envies his wild past. The film was acclaimed by the audience and critics, soon becoming one of French box-office movies in year 2002.
The suicide shop (Le magasin des suicides, 2012)
This is Leconte’s first animation movie which tells about a dystopic future where all human beings seem to have lost the joy for life. Amid this gloominess is a family store that has been serving the community by assuring their customers a successful suicide. Everything runs smoothly for the Tuvache family, owners of the “suicide shop”, until the irresistibly sunny third child, Alan (Kacey Mottet Klein) is born. The Tuvaches’ world suddenly threatens to become a merrier place and this could threaten his father Mishima’s (Bernard Alane) business.