Death of filmmaker Patrick Grandperret

La Lettre AFC n°296

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Although not well-known by audiences, filmmaker Patrick Grandperret, who passed away at Saint-Maur-des-Fossé on Saturday, 9 March at the age of 72, seduced generation of cinephiles with his films, which were full of freedom, poetry and tenderness, but also of surprising audaciousness. Borne by the fluidity of his camera style and the energy of his actors, his work, which, although it was not prolific was recognized by his peers, cut across the trends and changes in cinema and television for nearly four decades.

Born on 24 October 1946 in Saint-Maur-des-Fossés to a father who was an optical engineer (reportedly the designer of unbreakable lenses for a brand of eyeglasses), Patrick Grandperret, after having completed studies that initially put him on the path of economics and business, decided to change course for film photography, and participated in the shooting of Bel ordure by Jean Marbeuf in 1973, and La Fille du garde-barrière by Jérôme Savary in 1975.

Patrick Grandperret, en 2008 - Photo Bernard Fau
Patrick Grandperret, en 2008
Photo Bernard Fau

Once he’d had his first taste of the world of cinema, he directed and produced short films and became the assistant director to Nadine Trintignant (Le Voyage de noces, 1975), Claude Goretta (La Dentellière, 1977), Maurice PIalat (Passe ton bac d’abord, 1978, and Loulou in 1979), Jean-Louis Trintignant (Le Maître-nageur, 1979) and Claude Faraldo (Deux lions au soleil, 1980).
After directing some documentaries for Pathé Cinéma and the INA, Patrick Grandperret directed his first feature-length film, Court Circuits, in 1989, where, via the intermediary of fiction, he explored his passion for motorcycle racing. After that, he directed Mona et moi in 1981, which received the Jean Vigo award the following year, and then three films set in Africa (L’Enfant lion in 1992 – a box-office hit, Le Maître des éléphants in 1995, and Les Victimes in 1996).

The latter two films did not meet with the expected box-office success, and he spent the next ten years, from 1997 to 2015, shooting fictions for television—both series and made-for-TV films—and only returned to the cinema in 2006 with Meurtrières, based on a screenplay that Maurice Pialat had never brought to the screen. Ten more years followed before he directed Fui banquero, with his daughter Emilie.
In an article in Le Monde dated 16 March 2019 dedicated to Patrick Grandperret, Jacques Mandelbaum, discussing this last film, described it as “both a personal farewell and Cuban fable in which a young French banker (Robinson Stévenin) renounces his profession to finally encounter himself. The film is touching because of its faithful portrayal of the filmmaker’s own world : going away as far as possible in the hope of finding himself. Today, we can say that it was a success.”

He produced films by his friends, in particular films by Claude Faraldo and Claire Denis, respectively Deux lions au soleil and Beau travail. A member of the ARP since 1990, he was the subject of a retrospective at the
Cinémathèque française->] in2016.

On the website of the SACD, Jean Marboeuf paid tribute to the late filmmaker.
“Patrick Grandperret had a sharp eye (he began as a still photographer on my first film). His laughter was sonorous, communicative, full of hope ; he was a filmmaker who was part of his generation of dreams and poetry. He liked to spend time with those like him : Faraldo the libertarian, Stévenin the romantic. He liked, as did Jean Vigo (whose award he won) life, liberty, happiness. And then, to flee on his motorcycle to see other places. He had the instability and the fickle elegance of the true creator. He was a positive destroyer. He had taken up an unfinished screenplay by the great Pialat, who was a father to him. I hope that now, wherever you may be, you will be able to continue your quest for the absolute.”

Once cited in the daily Libération, he discussed his work in the following terms : “On a set, I am a sort of overexcited marmoset : I frame the shot, I hold the camera, I direct the actors… I love the technical side of things, I love to cobble together solutions myself…”

(Translated from French by Alexander Baron-Raiffe)