In The Spotlight: Claude Lelouch

With the Paris Lift-Off Film Festival taking place this week, where new independent film is discovered, shared and celebrated, it is quite the coincidence that one of the most talented (and under-appreciated) independent French filmmakers of the twentieth century, the now eighty-year-old Claude Lelouch, is getting back behind the camera.

Making films for almost sixty years with his self-founded production company Les Films 13, he has developed deep bonds with some of the most influential names in the business. Archetypical French actors, singers and songwriters have collaborated with him, capturing the essence of Parisian life, the Normandy coast, but also for the deeper truths about human beings. To-do so, he has often focused on dislikable characters, doomed destinies, and the inevitability of repeated history.

Lelouch has always been an adept of chance encounters, lifelong stories and destiny. In fact, the eighty-year-old director completed the third sequel to his touchstone classic and winner of the Palme D’or at Cannes, Un Homme et une Femme (A Man and a Woman, 1966), following the realisation that the main actors Anouk Aimée and Jean-Louis Trintignant, and Lelouch himself were all still alive. To a director who loves stories that follow lifelong timelines, this opportunity was a gift none of them could pass up. The couple meet by chance, and develop into an epitome of French romance, against the backdrop of Francis Lai’s now canonical musical score.

View the trailer for Un Homme et une Femme here:

Recently, as “invité d’honneur” at the Lyon Festival of Lights, Lelouch ran into his old friend and colleague Jean-Paul Belmondo, who had starred in his film Itinéraire d’un enfant gâté (Itinerary of a Spoiled Child, 1988), about a foundling raised in the circus who becomes a businessman after a trapeze incident. Upon this chance meeting, the director’s insatiable interest for such random coincidences of human life led to his idea to ask Belmondo to come out of retirement for one last appearance, for a follow up to this classic French film. Like many of his films, Itinerary of a Spoiled Child explores themes of lost purpose in life, how we deal with those feelings, and how chance encounters can truly change the outcome of one’s trajectory, even after the age of fifty in this case.

Claude Lelouch and Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Throughout his career, Lelouch has brought his passion for real people with realistic problems related to family, money, loss, and love. In a recent interview, he said he considers himself “a reporter,” as he observes all around him “like a true concierge,” putting “real life onto film.”

His films are in tune with his independent filmmaking origins, and are certainly not about financial gain or even about reaching a large audience, but about coming full circle. Lelouch’s love-affair with timelines, genuine performances and the Parisian landscape have never been uprooted, and at the Paris Lift-Off Film Festival we are excited see what the next generation of independent filmmakers have to offer.

Written by Eloïse Wright.

Keep up to date with the Paris Lift-Off Film Festival here: