Beineix, Jean-Jacques

(1946- )
   Director, screenwriter, and producer. Jean-Jacques Beineix initially planned to become a doctor, and in fact, began studying medicine in 1966 before the events of May 1968 inspired him to turn to a career in film. He first studied under Jean Becker as he directed the television series Les Saintes Chéries. He later became an assistant to Claude Berri, René Clément, and Claude Zidi. Their influence, however, is difficult to detect in Beineix's work, as he has been something of an avant-garde filmmaker. Beineix's films are emblematic of the cinéma du look, a movement or style that was, at first, criticized for its alleged adaptation of superficial advertising styles and abandonment of narrative development. More recently, critics have praised Beineix's innovative use of color, his artistic blending of genres, and his mélange of "high" art with popular culture, all of which reflects a reconsideration of the cinéma du look.
   Beineix's first film, the short Le chien de monsieur Michel, was nominated for a César Award for Best Short Fiction Film in 1979. His debut feature film, Diva (1981), is considered the first "look" film, the first of France's postmodern films, an auteur film, and a prototype of jeune cinéma (young cinema). The film won Césars for Best First Film, Best Photography, Best Musical Score, and Best Sound in 1982. Diva's reception was mixed. Some considered it an uncritical display of meaningless images, while others pointed to its clever engagement with youth culture and psychoanalytic theories.
   Beineix subsequently directed the "look" film La lune dans le caniveau (1983), a less commercially successful feature starring Gérard Depardieu, Nastassja Kinski, and Victoria Abril. It was nominated for a Golden Palm at Cannes, yet was also booed by some spectators at its festival screening. This second film received several negative reviews — including scorn from Depardieu. Those who disliked the film denounced Beineix's emphasis on an often seductive look over narrative substance. Beineix's third feature, 37° 2 le matin (1986), like Diva, continued in the vein of cinéma du look and became a cult classic. It won the Grand Prix des Amériques and Most Popular Film at the Montreal World Film Festival in 1986. It stars Béatrice Dalle and Jean-Hughes Anglade, two emerging young actors of the 1990s. It was followed by the romantic drama Roselyne et les lions (1989). The much beloved actor Yves Montand starred in Beineix's IP5, l'île aux pachydermes (1992). The film was Montand's last, as he died before Beineix finished shooting, leaving the director in some turmoil. Montand's death occurred very close to that of Beineix's mother, and the two deaths in combination seem to have constituted a devastating blow.
   After the deaths of Montand and his mother, Beineix departed from feature filmmaking to make documentaries, including Otaku: fils de l'empire du virtuel (1994) codirected with Jackie Bastide. In 1994, he began his presidency of the Association des Auteurs, Réalisateurs, et Producteurs, a post he resigned from in 1995. He returned to fictional films with Mortel transfert (2001), which depicts more mature characters. It is based on a novel by Jean-Pierre Gattegno and casts Anglade as the lead protagonist.
   Debates over Beineix's films reflect the larger debates about the value of postmodern filmmaking and the increased role of technology in contemporary cinema. Beineix's films, especially Diva and 37° 2 le matin, were very popular among young audiences. While the criticisms of these films were scathing, they were largely confined to the more established commentators for Cahiers du Cinéma. This is, as some scholars have noted, ironic inasmuch as Beineix's challenges to French filmmaking recall Nouvelle Vague or New Wave's challenge to the tradition de qualité, a challenge that was intimately bound to the Cahiers. For his part, Beineix has contended that the New Wave is, at this point, outdated, and that cinema must move on. Despite Beineix's critiques of the New Wave, his work shows signs of the auteur cinema often associated with figures like Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, and Eric Rohmer.

Historical Dictionary of French Cinema. . 2007.

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