Grémillon, Jean

   Director. Jean Grémillon began his career as a musician. He went to Paris in 1920 to study music at the Schola cantorum, where he met the actor Charles Dullin. At the same time Grémillon began performing in film orchestras to make money. This initial contact with the cinema cultivated an interest in filmmaking, which in turn ultimately led him to a career in the cinema.
   Grémillon began his filmmaking career as a documentary film-maker, with films such as Étirage des ampoules électrique (1923), Chartres (1923), La Bière (1924), Les Parfums (1924), Photogénie mécanique (1924), L'Auvergne (1925), La Vie des travailleurs italiens en France (1926), and Un tour au large (1926), which has been lost. All sixteen of his documentaries are centered on issues of work and particularly workers, and the two that are considered his best, Photogénie mécanique (1924) and Un tour au large (1926), are both also situated in the domain of the avant-garde for their use of montage, their fragmented structure, and their impressionistic visual techniques.
   In 1928, Grémillon made his first narrative film, Maldone, a film for which he also composed the music. The film, which starred Charles Dullin, was made partly with the help of Dullin's cinema connections. The film was fairly well received, both critically and commercially, and again revealed an avant-garde sensibility, with expressionist underpinnings. Grémillon followed the next year with Gardiens de phare (1929), a film that had been a project of Jacques Feyder, another friend of Grémillon's. Grémillon made some modifications to the project when he received it, and the final film, therefore, reprised certain elements of Grémillon's filmmaking technique, including a cinematic gaze that is very reminiscent of documentary filmmaking.
   If Grémillon's narrative film debut went rather well, Grémillon's sound film debut did not repeat the pattern. La Petite Lise, made for Pathé-Natan in 1930, was an enormous failure. And while Grémillon would go on to make other films immediately after La Petite Lise, they would not be worthy of him. His films from the period include the colonial melodrama Dainah la métisse (1931) and the relatively conventional melodramas Pour un sou d'amour (1931), Gonzague (1933), and Pattes de mouche (1936), and the historical melodrama Valse royale (1935).
   In 1937, Grémillon redeemed his reputation as a filmmaker with excellent films produced back-to-back. The first of these, Guele d'amour (1937), starred Jean Gabin and Mireille Balin, and is one of the classic Gabin films of all time. The second film, L'Étrange Monsieur Victor (1937), starred screen legend Raïmu as a criminal and murderer, a role that was highly uncharacteristic of the beloved star. These two were followed by another acclaimed film, Remorques (1941), a sea adventure, again starring Gabin. It is a testament to Grémillon that the film was made at all, as the outbreak of the war prevented access to the sea, which is nearly a character in itself in the film, and Grémillon had to be quite inventive in finding ways to finish it. Some critics consider these films, as well as those made in the 1940s, under the rubric of Le Réalisme poétique or poetic realism.
   In 1943, Grémillon made Lumière d'été. The film, which stars Pierre Brasseur and Madeleine Renaud, is the story of a young, working-class girl, exploited by a rich lover, and is overt in its critique of the exploitation of the lower classes by the upper classes. Made from a screenplay written by Jacques Prévert, the film carried forward the message of the defeated Front populaire, even into the era of Nazi Occupation. This trend was continued with Grémillon's next film, Le Ciel est à vous (1943), which is often seen as an example of French neorealism.
   After the Liberation, Grémillon made Le 6juin à l'aube (1946), a film about the Liberation itself, and Pattes blanches (1949), the story of a family brought to its knees by a love rivalry between half brothers. The film, which starred Suzy Delair, also has very overt class messages and may be read as a comment on the perceived self-de-struction of elites, such as the aristocracy. Apart from these two films, Grémillon did not have much luck getting his films produced and devoted his energies to the Cinémathèque française, of which he had become president, and film union work. He also returned to documentary filmmaking, with such films as Les Désastres de la guerre (1949), Les Charmes de la vie (1949), about the Art Salons of the nineteenth century, Astrologie ou le miroir de la vie (1952), and La Maison aux images (1955).
   Grémillon made only two other narrative films before his death, L'Étrange Madame X (1951), starring Michèle Morgan, and L'Amour d'une femme (1953), starring Gaby Morlay and France Asselin. Both are essentially romantic melodramas. However, L'Amour d'une femme is quite progressive in its representation of women's roles and might be read, without much of a stretch, as a feminist film. In that respect, Grémillon ended his career as he started it—ahead of his time.

Historical Dictionary of French Cinema. . 2007.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Grémillon, Jean — (1901 1959)    Director. Jean Grémillon began his career as a musician. He went to Paris in 1920 to study music at the Schola cantorum, where he met the actor Charles Dullin. At the same time Grémillon began performing in film orchestras to make… …   Guide to cinema

  • Grémillon, Jean — (October 3, 1901, Bayeux, Calvados, France November 25, 1959, Paris, France)    After completing his secondary studies at Brest and Bayeux, he moved to Paris, where he studied music with Vincent d Indy. He started his working life playing violin… …   Encyclopedia of French film directors

  • Gremillon, Jean — • ГРЕМИЙО Н (Gremillon) Жан (3.10.1901 25.11.1959)    франц. режиссёр. По образованию музыкант. В кино с 1925. Ставил док., науч. популяр., к/м фильмы. Первый худож. ф. Подтасовка (1927). Это изысканный по стилю ф. о жизни моряков принёс Г.… …   Кино: Энциклопедический словарь

  • Jean Gremillon — Jean Grémillon Jean Grémillon Naissance 3 octobre 1901 Bayeux, France Nationalité(s) française Décès 25  …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Grémillon — Jean Grémillon (* 3. Oktober 1901 in Bayeux; † 25. November 1959 in Paris) war ein französischer Filmregisseur. Grémillon begann seine Karriere als Violinist, der in Stummfilmorchestern tätig war. Seit 1923 begann er selbst Filme zu drehen,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • GRÉMILLON (J.) — GRÉMILLON JEAN (1902 1959) Réalisateur aujourd’hui un peu oublié, Jean Grémillon, dont la carrière va de 1923 à 1958, est pourtant l’un des metteurs en scène importants de l’histoire du cinéma français. Il fut l’auteur de documentaires (Alchimie …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Grémillon — (Jean) (1902 1959) cinéaste français: Remorques (1941) …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Jean Grémillon — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Grémillon. Jean Grémillon Données clés Naissance 3 octobre 1901 Bayeux, France Nationalité …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Jean Grémillon — (October 3, 1901 – November 25, 1959) was a French film director. After directing a number of documentaries during the 1920s, many now lost, he had his first substantial success with the dramatic feature Maldone in 1928. Over the next quarter… …   Wikipedia

  • Jean Grémillon — (* 3. Oktober 1901 in Bayeux, Basse Normandie; † 25. November 1959 in Paris) war ein französischer Filmregisseur. Leben Jean Grémillon begann seine Karriere als Violinist, der in Stummfilmorchestern tätig war. Seit 1923 begann er selbst Filme zu… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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