Jean-Claude Carrière, Harvester of Cinema
It was the early sixties, and Brigitte Bardot, Jeanne Moreau, Catherine Deneuve, and Delphine Seyrig were the stars in our sky. When I first met Jean-Claude Carrière, about fifty-five years ago—he was thirty, I was twenty-three—we were working on the same picture, though not together: Louis Malle’s Viva Maria! We shot it in Mexico, and since he had already started working with Buñuel on Belle de jour, it was only natural that he put elements of anarchy and surrealism into Malle’s film. This wasn’t exactly a guarantee of commercial success, though that approach did lead to well-received films like The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and That Obscure Object of Desire. Nobody but him could or would have dared to combine extremely conventional plotlines with such wild surrealist ideas, much less cast the same character with two different actresses (as he did in Obscure Object). Jean-Claude managed a winning combination, a unique achievement: being avant-garde and mainstream at the same time.
Miloš Forman was the next director who teamed up with him, taking him to America for Taking Off and working with him on several films up through 2006’s Goya’s Ghost. Fifteen years into our friendship, we wrote The Tin Drum, a very German film that we scripted in French. And for our late friend the master Andrzej Wajda, Jean-Claude created the very Polish Danton, starring Gérard Depardieu. But in addition to these art-house films, Jean-Claude could do a straight commercial movie as well. La piscine is a classic in its own right, and the sheer physical attraction between Romy Schneider and Alain Delon is still steaming after all these years.