‘The French film director Jean-Gabriel Albicocco died, aged 65, on April 30, 2001 in Rio de Janeiro, where he was living, forgotten and destitute. It was a tragic end to a career that started so promisingly – by the age of 30 he had made one of the French cinema’s greatest successes.
‘Of Italian ancestry, Albicocco was born in Cannes, the son of the cinematographer Quinto Albicocco. By the age of 10, he was already proficient in the use of a ciné camera, shooting his own 8mm movies around the town. While still in his teens, he worked on documentaries for the cinématograph service of the French army. By 1957, the 21-year-old was assistant director on Jules Dassin’s ambitious adaptation of the Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis’s novel Christ Recrucified, retitled He Who Must Die.
‘After directing a number of well-received shorts, Albicocco made his first feature. Following in the wake of the French new wave, it was The Girl With The Golden Eyes (La Fille Aux Yeux d’Or, 1961), about a fashion designer who falls for a young woman, whom he discovers is the lover of a female colleague. It would be hard to guess that this chic, stylish and stylised lesbian tale, excellently photographed by Albicocco’s father and set in the Paris fashion houses of the early 1960s, was based on a Balzac story.
‘The film was a great success for the director, and for 20-year-old Marie Lafort in the title role, whom Albicocco was soon to marry. He followed it up with Le Rat d’Amérique, starring Lafort and Charles Aznavour, and it was selected for the 1963 Cannes film festival.
‘Then came his biggest hit of all, Le Grand Meaulnes (The Wanderer, 1966), based on Alain Fournier’s popular young people’s classic. In fact, Albicocco was the first person in 30 years to persuade Isabelle Rivière, who co-wrote the screenplay with him, to allow her brother’s work to be filmed.
‘Again working with his father as cinematographer, Albicocco attempted to recreate the fairy-tale atmosphere of the poignant story of the young Augustin Meaulnes in search of a beautiful and mysterious girl and his lost adolescence. Though it was often too frenetic and flashy for its own good, the film was, nevertheless, visually impressive, and became one of France’s biggest box-office successes of the year, as well as making an impact abroad.
‘But his extravagant style – it was noted that Albicocco rhymes with rococo – and rather sentimental approach seemed to lose favour with critics and the public, and his next two films, Le Coeur Fou (1969) and Le Petit Matin (1970), were flops. The latter was a roseate view of the occupation, and featured the celebrated stage director and actor Jean Vilar in his last role.
‘Thereafter, Albicocco decided to give up film-making and work behind the scenes of the industry. He founded the French Film Directors Union in 1968, and organised the directors’ fortnight at Cannes. But in the early 1980s, with a certain amount of regret and bitterness, and now divorced, he suddenly went to live in Brazil.
‘”I no longer belong in France,” he announced, although he was instrumental in forging links between the French and Brazilian cinemas. But his investment in a chain of cinemas, to counteract the influence of the torrent of Hollywood movies, led only to penury.
‘A few days before his death, when it was reported that he was gravely ill, a call went out in France to fellow cinéastes to help Albicocco. Sadly, it was too late.’ — Ronald Bergan
Jean-Gabriel Albicocco @ IMDb
MORT DU RÉALISATEUR JEAN-GABRIEL ALBICOCCO
La mort de Jean-Gabriel Albicocco
Jean-Gabriel Albicocco @ Cine Artistes
#265. LE CŒUR FOU. Jean Gabriel Albicocco, 1969
JEAN-GABRIEL ALBICOCCO @ MUBI
Jean-Gabriel Albicocco @ UNIFRANCE
[Be Kind Rewind] LE CŒUR FOU de Jean-Gabriel Albicocco
Refracted Light: The Films of Quinto and Jean-Gabriel Albicocco
Jean Gabriel Albicocco et Marie Laforêt
5 of Jean-Gabriel Albicocco’s 15 films
Rat Trap (1963)
‘This South American adventure drama finds Charles (Charles Aznavour), a youthful Frenchman traveling to Paraguay to start a new life. Seeking out a rich uncle, the idealistic nephew is rejected by his miserly relation, and he goes on to get involved with a shady woman and a band of gun runners who supply arms for the revolution of the week. Charles and his new girlfriend head for the border after a shootout with federal troops, and a kindly railroad worker hides the couple in an abandoned copper mine. Charles is later thrown in prison while the girl becomes a concubine, but her violator is killed when Charles escapes to rescue her and exact revenge. A pretty harrowing composition could be written by the young couple on “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.”’ — letterboxd
The Girl with the Golden Eyes (1961)
‘Henri Marsay, a rakish lothario, enjoys sex as something of a gamble and a sport. While participating alongside his friends in elaborate scenarios of erotic gamesmanship, he becomes increasingly preoccupied with his latest conquest, and grows distraught upon discovering a rival in her lesbian paramour. Though now relatively obscure, The Girl with the Golden Eyes was not without enthusiasts upon its initial release. Amos Vogel even arranged a special presentation of the work at his influential film society Cinema 16, situating it as an alternative to the Nouvelle Vague offerings of the era. “A mysterious, perverse Gothic tale, derived from Balzac and transposed to a deceptively contemporary Paris, probes the secret of a bizarre love in an atmosphere of sophisticated decadence,” wrote Vogel in his program notes. “Opulent in its artificiality, the film is especially noteworthy for its visual pyrotechnics, luxuriant imagination and unexpected continuity.”’ — Film Society Lincoln Center
Excerpt (dubbed intro Russian)
Le Grand Meaulnes (1967)
‘A film made with vaseline and railway tracks, which takes some adjusting to; but you soon forget to read the subtitles, because you can understand all you need without them. It’s based on the book Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier, and explores a strange adolescence in provincial France at the end of the last century. In the film, Roger Corman meets Proust, Elvira Madigan rides again, and Renoir takes acid.’ — Time Out (London)
Le coeur fou (1970)
‘What strikes at first in Le coeur fou, it is timely it seems ahead of its time, with its chiseled image, its whirling camera movements and its feverish characters, announcing some great Mannerist films of the following decade signed Argento or even Zulawski (which we think a lot), a whole pan of cinema 70’s under LSD, totally screwed up and totally paroxysmal. Everything seems drugged, everything gives the tournis. What disconcerts in a second, is why such a strong work remains unknown. Jean-Pierre Dionnet has the answer: it would be the hangover of the day after May 1968 and Le coeur fou is one of those films sacrificed by economic censorship like Jean-Denis Bonan’s La Femme Executioner , exhumed recently and released in 2015 on our screens. Le coeur fou marks Albicocco’s first public failure, critical but not artistic. Plasiquement, the film is of a new beauty, sumptuous, limit too much, until the indigestion with his travellings and its sequences of barge, almost inciting us to disregard the plot, to let us contaminate by the love sickness violently experienced by both lovers. He is also very beautiful in what he says about these destinies.’ — Chaos Reigns
Le Petit Matin (1970)
‘A coyly maudlin romance set in Occupied France during WWII, all about an adolescent girl, much given to riding dreamily around on a white horse, and her love affairs – of varying degrees of intensity and fulfilment – with said horse, a childhood playmate who turns out to be gay (Baltauss), and a handsome young German soldier (Carrière), also much addicted to galloping about. Always a prettifier, Albicocco drenches the whole thing in a pale green tint, so that even shots of Jewish deportees look like chocolate-box tops. There’s a fulsome Francis Lai score to match the decoratively swirling mists prevailing in the area, and despite a would-be tragic ending, the whole thing is marshmallow through and through.’ — Time Out (London)
p.s. Hey. ** Jim Pedersen, Jim! Aw, how lovely to see you! I would love to have the opportunity to catch up. Truly needed. I’ll be in NYC for a few weeks in June, maybe then? Take care, my friend. ** Chaim Hender, Hi, Chaim. Thanks, pal. ** David Ehrenstein, Morning, maestro. ** Steve Erickson, I know Ladislas Starewitch by name, but I’m not sure if I’ve seen the work or much of it. I’ll look into for it for general interest and, yes, possibly a post, thank you. Yes, a bit different to do the Disneyland experience sober, but its psychedelia is still plenty effective without a booster shot. Maybe music critics have finally realised people who listen to music have ears and minds of their own and don’t need critics acting as though the world of music lovers would be a dangerous place without their finger wagging and trigger warnings. Hope so. ** Amphibiouspeter, Hi, AP. Glad you liked the Reininger work. I agree, obvs. If it was a reminder of ‘Life Aquatic’ that is a huge compliment to me, cool. Ha ha, thanks about my omniference or thereabouts. Yeah, I don’t know. I’ve just always been voraciously curious about a lot of things, and the blog gives me an excuse to indulge that side of me for a ‘good cause’ or something. There was a time quite some time ago when Orlando Bloom could have theoretically been featured in that list, I think? If memory serves. Didn’t get a shot of me and Goofy, sadly. The only time I saw him he was onstage dancing to a Hi-NRG Xmas carol. ** James Nulick, Hi, James. Glad you dug. I liked the ‘God Jr.’ length too. But, yeah, no clue what the length was exactly. Interesting. I too read fewer, much fewer, long novels than I used to, but it seems like most people I know who are older are almost all reading really long novels and seem to think that’s one of those things one does when they’re older. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! That does sound chaotic. I’m assuming the unsold versus sold ratio must weight heavily in ‘favor’ of the unsold. After consultation, this is the Buche that Zac and I will eat with Gisele and Stephen on Saturday. Today I must decide which Buche will be my Xmas day Buche. Big decision. Your brother has arrived! That must help a lot. Just a handful more work days, right? Disneyland Paris was a lot of fun. It’s was very foggy and misty all day so the park looked like food. Here are the rides we rode (I think in order): Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic: The Calm and the Storm, Ratatouille: The Adventure, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Phantom Manor, Hyperspace Mountain, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril, Big Thunder Mountain, ‘it’s a small world’, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, and Les Mystères du Nautilus. How did Thursday treat you? ** Misanthrope, Hi. Okay, I’ll check out that Lambert thing today. I don’t know who Blake Mitchell is. I’m way behind on the Helix superstars. When I think Helix, I still think Kyler Moss and Kyle Ross. ** Bill, Hi. The Disneyland outing did whatever trick it was intended to do, thank you. Thanks a lot for the late breaking 2017 faves. Noted and noted. ** Fratolish Hiang-Perpeshki, Hello again. Okay, I’m happy to share your poster. Very best of luck in your search. Everyone, Fratolish Hiang-Perpeshki needs your help if you can help him. Here he is to ask you himself: ‘i made to find My adobted alien father. i believe he NOT return to Pleiades,or is on Earth unknown location ((goverment captured)). i am to make my UFO to travel to his place soon. poster here.’ Take care. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. It sounds like Xmas is treating you pretty well so far. I’m curious to see that Grace Jones doc, of course. Have a fine Thursday! ** Right. I think that trusty suggester of blog post ideas Jeff Jackson is the guy who nudged me into doing a Day about the very interesting and quite obscure French filmmaker Jean-Gabriel Albicocco. May you find interest of some degree therein. See you tomorrow.