Jean Monsigny has left us

AFC newsletter n°302

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Cinematographer Jean Monsigny passed away on Wednesday 18 September 2019, at the age of eighty-three. A member of the AFC and an artist in the broadest sense of the term, he filmed about seventy fictions and documentaries for cinema and television during his forty-five-year-long career.

Born on 24 April 1936, Jean Monsigny studied cinema at the School in the Rue de Vaugirard (today ENS Louis-Lumière), alongside the likes of Michel Deloire, Jean Harnois, Nicole [Daujat] and William Lubtchansky. Upon graduation, he served in the Army Cinema Service at the Fort d’Ivry, and then became Jean Badal’s assistant on François Leterrier’s 1963 film Un roi sans divertissement, Nelly Kaplan’s 1969 La Fiancée du pirate, and Edouard Luntz’s 1970 film Le Dernier saut.

After a quick experience behind the camera with Jean-Jacques Renon, and a few trial runs on his first feature films as cinematographer, he became, alongside Gérard de Battista, William Lubtchansky, Renan Pollès, Robert Millié, and Michel Houssiau, one of the cinematographers on the 1972 utopian documentary-fable The Year 01 (L’An 01]), by Jacques Doillon, Alain Resnais, and Jean Rouch. And then came Bruno Gantillon’s 1973 film Sans Sommation and Guy Casaril’s 1975 film Emilienne.

Jean Monsigny then began a collaboration with Gérard Mordillat on La Voix de son maître in 1978, a film co-directed by Nicolas Philibert and co-photographed by François Catonné, Gilbert Duhalde and Jean-Paul Schwartz. Then came Billy Ze Kick, in 1985 and Fucking Fernand, in 1987. Another notable collaboration was with Burkinabe director Idrissa Ouedraogo—who was his student at the Idhec –, when he was cinematographer on the film Yam daabo (The Choice), in 1986, Tilaï in 1990, and Le Cri du cœur, in 1995, co-photographed by Jean-Paul Meurisse.

We will also mention some other directors he worked with, such as Jacques Bral (Mauvais garçon, in 1993) and Jean-Patrick Lebel. From 1990 onward, television directors started to hire him for his talent behind the camera, including Claude Santelli, Marcel Bluwal and Jacques Renard, with whom he shot his last film, Un souvenir, in 2008.

Jean Monsigny, in front of his house in Sèvres, in 1999
Jean Monsigny, in front of his house in Sèvres, in 1999

Passionate about photography—he was interested in the graphic aspect of images—during the past few years, Jean Monsigny enjoyed taking portraits of artists in the act of creating as he would have filmed them with a movie camera. During an exposition in 2012, he wrote the following accompanying text for his photographs*:
“I sometimes allow my gaze to wander; the subject becomes blurry and gets lost…
Photo-graphy? There is no longer any “photo (of…)”. Remains “graphy,” a graphic without title, the sole pleasure of photography, managing space, rhythms and colors.”
* See some of his photographs in the portfolio below

Jean Monsigny and the AFC
A member of the association since 1991 – his sponsors were Jacques Loiseleux and Charlie Van Damme -, Jean was a member of the board of directors from March 1992 to February 1998, and the treasurer from 1994 to 1996. He was an active participant in the education committee, from its beginnings, because transmitting knowledge was one of his main focuses, on sets and especially in cinema schools, such as the IDHEC, where he was a long-standing speaker.

We will keep the memory of a charming and warm being, always ready to listen and always kind. Our friendship and our condolences to his wife, Lysiane, his children and his loved ones.

Two AFC members pay their respects
I was glad to have worked with him on several occasions.
Jean Monsigny was a delightful man, discreet and respectful of others.
He is someone that one was always glad to meet.
I will miss him.
My condolences to his family.
Arthur Cloquet

Jean Monsigny at first seemed to be very reserved but he quickly displayed curiosity for others, mixed with respect and great kindness.
I remember his calm and warm voice, his smile full of lucidity. I felt great affection for Jean.
My condolences to his loved ones.
Pierre Novion

In the portfolio below, some photos from shoots, including Tilaï, by Idrissa Ouedraogo, an example of the many albums of prints he made of the films he had shot, and three photos from his “graphic” works – Jean Monsigny Archives

(Translated from French by A. Baron-Raiffe)