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Biography

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Overview (3)

Born in Paris, France
Died in Passy, Haute-Savoie, France  (natural causes)
Birth NameJean-Paul Dreyfus

Mini Bio (1)

For many decades, no French director was held in greater contempt than Jean-Paul Le Chanois (1909-1985). He was the perfect target of criticism by the New Wave filmmakers of the late 1950s and 1960s. However, unlike other targets of the Young Turks, Chanois was never restored to favor. Nevertheless, a small number of his films deserve recognition.

A member of the Communist Party and a union man, Chanois collaborated (as Jean-Paul Dreyfus, his real name) with famed director Jean Renoir and others on "La vie est à nous" (1936). A propaganda film for the French Communist Party, "La vie est à nous" has not aged well and failed to capture the Front Populaire zeitgeist like Duvivier's "La Belle Equipe" did.

Chanois' next film "The Time of the Cherries" (1938) borrowed its title from the eponymous revolutionary song of the Paris Commune and was an overtly socialist movie: It told the story of two families, a wealthy one and a working-class one, but a muddled screenplay undermined its overall quality.

After serving as a resistance fighter during World War II, Chanois resumed his film career in 1946 with "Messieurs Ludovic" which featured endearing characters and an overt populism which reflected his deep political convictions. Next came "Au Coeur De L'Orage" (1948), a patriotic documentary about the French Resistance which compared favorably to René Clément's "La Bataille Du Rail." At the time, the French public tolerated only heroic depictions of France's wartime events. It would take Marcel Ophüls' "The Sorrow and the Pity" (1971) to show the dark side of the mirror. But, as a resistance fighter himself, Chanois knew what he was talking about, and the sincerity of his documentary cannot be called into question.

Then came arguably Chanois' finest work: "L'Ecole Buissonnière" (1949), based on the life of teacher Celestin Freinet. In the film, a war hero becomes a teacher in a small village. He rejects the old methods of instruction: Gone is the iron discipline; gone is the lesson you learned by heart even if you did not understand a single word of it; gone is the dunce shamefully hidden in the back of the classroom. Although tarnished by its association with Chanois' later works, the film is one of the best postwar movies and is still relevant today.

"Sans Laisser D'Adresse" and "Agence Matrimoniale" resumed Chanois' populist theme and added a heartfelt humanism. In these films, all his directorial trademarks were in evidence; in particular, his sympathy for lonely people and for the character who must face a hostile world.

At the time, Chanois' career was progressing in a good direction, but it didn't seem that way after both "Papa, Mama, the Maid and I" and "Papa, Mama, My Wife and Me." The films gave a false picture of the average French family of the nineteen-fifties - a biology teacher, a former actress, and a lawyer aren't exactly typical representations of working people.

Chanois' later film "Les Miserables" (1958) is perhaps his most well-known work. Although a massive hit in France and the second most widely seen film of 1958, contemporary critics vocally preferred Raymond Bernard's classic 1930s version. They deemed Chanois' film to be a disappointing adaptation of Victor Hugo's mammoth novel; various members of the French press ridiculed the casting of singer Bourvil as Thénardier.

Chanois' other filmography is unremarkable except for "The Fugitives" (1955). The film's action occurs in a train boxcar. The screenplay was based on a true story with one of the actors portraying himself during the war. Another notable film is "The Case of Dr. Laurent," a heartfelt plea for painless childbirth.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: dbdumonteil

Spouse (1)

Silvia Monfort (? - ?)

Trivia (2)

French director, who was a member of the French Resistance during World War II. He was strongly affiliated with the French Communist Party.
He used as part of his pseudonym his mother's last name. He thus could work for the Continental in Paris during the war while being a Résistant. These WWII events are described in Laissez-passer. In the 1950s, he was the companion and later husband of Silvia Monfort.

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