giovedì 26 dicembre 2019

SIMENON SIMENON. A BIG FIASCO BUT THE BEGINNING OF A FRIENDSHIP

About the film La Nuit du Carrefour


SIMENON SIMENON. UN GRANDE FIASCO MA L'INIZIO DI UN AMICIZIA
Sul film La Nuit du Carrefour
SIMENON SIMENON. A GRAND FIASCO MAIS LE DEBUT D’UNE AMITIE
A propos du film La Nuit du Carrefour






“a Bugatti arrived in a hurry and stopped […] in a big brake grinding. […] A man, a little older than me, jumped out of the car and came towards me. He had a quite angelic face […]. He kissed me on my two cheeks and said: - Simenon... at last!... He was Jean Renoir […]. His first question was: - Are the cinematographic rights of La Nuit du carrefour still free? The first Maigret novels had just been published. No one had proposed me to adapt them for the cinema. My heart was beating very hard. I answered yes, of course.”
Simenon was a great admirer of the director, who was already very famous at the time. So we can understand the writer’s emotion. This encounter took place in Ouistreham, in Calvados, aboard his Ostrogoth, where he had been since the end of summer, writing a chapter of a new Maigret novel. Simenon remembered this event in one of his Dictées, Point-virgule, in 1977, at a time when the cinematographic industry had already produced more than forty movies adapted from his novels, and not only in France.
Let’s go back to this day in 1931 when Simenon was offered fifty thousand francs for the adaptation rights. Yet what most pleased to the writer was Renoir ‘s idea not to produce the film with a company, but to be himself the producer, supported by people who had nothing to do with the world of cinema. Renoir and Simenon spent several days working in the villa in Antibes, at frantic pace to transpose the novel which the director was particularly fond of. In his book Ma vie et mes films (1974), the director explained: “my ambition was to render with pictures the mystery of this story… And I intended to let the atmosphere prevail over intrigue. Simenon’s style evokes magnificently the greyness of this crossroad fifty kilometres away from Paris. I don’t’ think there is anywhere else on earth a more depressing place. Some house, forgotten in an ocean of mist, rain and mud… It could have been painted by Vlaminck. My enthusiasm for this atmosphere had once more succeeded in making me forget my convictions about the danger of adapting a film from a literary work…”
Maigret was interpreted by the director’s brother, Pierre Renoir; the director of production was Jacques Becker, who would become known in the future. And the complicity between Georges and Jean became a friendship that would last for their whole life.
Yet the processing of the film had many problems, some very serious, some inexplicable, such the one that occurred during the preview projection. The film was in fact such mysterious, too much mysterious, even incomprehensible, at least for the lenders who protested at the lack of clarity… It seemed that during the editing of the movie two reels had been lost… Later on Simenon gave another version: Jean Renoir would have been having a bad time because of the separation from his wife Catherine Hessling, he would have been often drunk… Some even told that a part of the script had not been shot! According to another version the missing scenes had not been shot because of lack of money… The lenders asked Simenon to shoot another scene in which he personally should appear on screen to explain the missing parts. But he categorically refused even he was offered 50000 francs for doing that.
At the film premiere there were ferocious critics, the atmosphere faded into the background and Renoir was accused to have failed in transposing a work hard to render on the screen and in being remained a victim of his infatuation. The film was a fiasco.
“La Nuit du Carrefour remains a completely crazy experience – Simenon remembered in spite of everything – but to which I can’t think without nostalgia… in our days when all is so well organised… you could not work like at those times…”


by Simenon-Simenon

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