Jul 6, 2007

Patrice Leconte, Unlikely Auteur
a master of encounters

"For me, there's nothing more enthralling than starting from reality - my inspiration always comes from reality, from ordinary people - and then going beyond it."

Director of Man On The Train , French filmmaker Patrice Leconte is as notable for his refusal to be easily categorized as he is for his long and productive career. Since making his major directorial debut in 1975 with Les Vécés Étaient Fermés de L'Intérieur, Leconte has established himself as one of France's most respected directors, at ease tackling subjects ranging from mental illness to sexuality to canny deconstructions of wit and society. He received particular acclaim for his 1996 film Ridicule, winning the admiration of an international audience while furthering his reputation as one of the French cinema's most treasured figures.

A native Parisian, Leconte was born on November 12, 1947. He decided to be a filmmaker at a very young age, and went on to attend France's most prestigious film school, I.D.H.E.C. During his education, constant visits to the Paris Cinémathèque aided in his understanding of cinematography culture. After graduating from I.D.H.E.C. in 1969, Leconte went against the cinematic grain, becoming a cartoonist for the French magazine Pilote. He made his living from cartooning until 1975, all the while shooting comic-fantasy shorts. The brand of humor he developed while making these shorts would later become the trademark of his most personal comedies.
In 1975, Leconte collaborated with Pilote colleague Marcel Gotlib to write Les Vécés Étaient Fermés de L'Intérieur (The Toilets Were Locked From the Inside). However, Leconte found greater success with his next feature, Les Bronzés (or French Fried Vacation). The 1978 film was the result of his involvement with the famed theater company, Le Splendid, where he wrote comedy and worked with actors like Michel Blanc, Josiane Balasko, and Thierry Lhermitte .

His next two films, in fact, proved to be compelling explorations of different types of madness, whether this madness assumed the form of murder and obsession or was irrevocably linked to sexual desire. The first of these films, 1989's Monsieur Hire, and the subsequent effort, Le Mari de la Coiffeuse (The Hairdresser's Husband) (1990), was also a critical success. Leconte's next major project was 1993's Tango, a black comedy . The film was a considerable success, unlike Leconte's next two major features, Le Parfum d'Yvonne (1994) and Les Grands Ducs (1996). The relative critical and commercial disappointments of these films, however, were to be more than made up for by his 1996 Ridicule, which was filmed while Les Grands Ducs was being edited.Ridicule was tremendously popular, chosen as the opening film at the 1996 Cannes Festival. It went on to win four Césars, including Best Film and Best Director.
Leconte is a director who knew his element, regardless of the period, style, or content of the films he made.
~ Rebecca Flint, All Movie Guide

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