Jean Renoir wrote in his memoirs: "If I were an architect and had to build a monument to cinema, I would place a statue of Duvivier above the front door. This great technician, this rigorous man, was a poet."
On Duvivier, Henri Jeanson said: "Julien Duvivier started at the Odeon Theatre, under the direction of Antoine. He kept something of it ... a love for work well done, a strong inclination for pessimistic endings, and for plain truth." Jean Gabin admitted: "I owe everything to two men. Duvivier for technique, Renoir for directing actors."
Michel Romanoff*, his assistant on many films, noted: "He was a man who could do anything. He could correct a set. If the director of photography was unable to work, he would replace him, and he would do so perfectly." Denise Morlot*, his faithful script-girl, noted: "He had an eye. He had an instinct for lenses. He would say: we put the camera there, we use the 30, or the 40, or the 75. He would never make a mistake."
Max Douy*, set designer: "His cutting was extraordinary. Everything was planned out. He was an incomparable technician."
Alekan*, the great cameraman: "He was better than many directors because of the precision of his technical cutting. It was done with such precision that we knew before, simply by reading the script, where we were going to put the camera, what lens we should use for a certain angle. I was working with a great master."
Michel Simon used to say: "With Duvivier, we knew where we were going." Louis Jouvet added: "Duvivier is a filmmaker who makes you want to shoot the next scene." Gérard Philipe revealed to the cinematographer Kelber, during the shooting of Pot Bouille, that he had rarely received such precise directions in so few words.
Danielle Delorme*: "Of all the directors I met, he was the one who gave the most guidance. I thought it was so great that you just had to let yourself go."
Dany Carel*: "He didn't give you many instructions, but he would tell you about the character. I thought it was great that he didn't give you any direction about intonation."
Jacques Robert, author of Marie Octobre, who worked with Duvivier for the film adaptation, noted: "The pure dramatic structure, how characters functioned, the dramatic rise were the things that interested him. He worked on all of this very closely and had a vigilant eye to push the paroxysms to the limit."
For Duvivier, to make a movie was first of all to tell a good story, with good actors and good technicians. He knew very well the particular status of film as both art and industry. He had been criticized in his own country for his eclecticism and lack of style. Julien Duvivier didn't have a style, he had style. He used to say: "I have the style of the movies I make."
Born on October 8th 1896, he directed, between 1919 and 1967, 67 films including 22 silent films. He wrote his screenplays himself, alone or in collaboration. He shot in France, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, North Africa, and the United States. Although he was treated with condescension by certain French critics who reproached him for making popular films, it seemed to him the height of cunning. He was very popular abroad, and particularly appreciated by his peers, Orson Welles, Igmar Bergman, and Graham Green
* Extracts of interviews by Hubert Niogret for the film "The work of a director".
|Maria Chapdelaine, 1934|
|Henriette's Party, 1952|
|Duvivier et Fernandel in "The Return of Don Camillo", janvier 1953|