Jacques Prévert’s Fascination with the Cinema
The world of films has been his heaven. Through photographs, posters and manuscripts, the Pathé foundation in Paris demonstrates the curiosity and catholicity of taste of the poet Jacques Prévert.
Eugénie Bachelot Prévert never misses an opportunity to pay tribute to her grandfather, Jacques Prévert (1900-1977). In partnership with Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé Foundation of Paris, she has been the inspiration behind the exhibition that celebrated the growing passion of the young Jacques for films. ‘I used to go very often. It was cheap and on Thursdays, I sometimes found the way to go unnoticed and sit face-to-face with the screen, as a clandestine spectator,’ wrote the French poet in 1967.
Besides a series of films that related to the poet’s salad days, hundreds of documents, manuscripts and new screenplays often written in collaboration with his brother Pierre (Émile-Émile ou le Trèfle à quatre feuilles, Le Malheureux Compositeur…)are presented. There are also photographs, collages and posters that show the curiosity and eclectic tastes of the future writer of Enfants du paradis (Children of Paradise). ‘Prévert wrote extensively on films, he assisted in its transformation from silence to sound and was a witness to the changing equipment. He himself worked as an extra,’ says Stephanie Salmon, Director of the Historical Collections and in-charge of the exhibition.
The exhibition builds on Enfance, an autobiographical account published in the journal Elle, in September-October 1959 under the title Les Mémoires de Jacques Prévert (The Memoirs of Jacques Prévert). In a somewhat damaged red folder, the librarian Solange Piatek discovered ‘briefing books containing notes and manuscript drafts’. The Parisian theatres frequented by Jacque Prévert, that of Grand Magasins Dufayel, Mille-Colonnes or L’Empire have almost all disappeared.
The author of Cancre was very watchful and organized. He kept notes about the movies, the auditoriums where he watched them and the different addresses where his family lived. Prévert loved Fantômas, admired Louis Feuillade, went from the Westerns on to the slapstick comedies. He also chronicles his activities: ‘My brother caught diphtheria. I go to my grandfather’s place at rue Monge……’ Sometimes Prévert would even write down a food item: ‘Beer and potato salad’.
After his military service in 1920, Jacques Prévert would go to the movies with his regimental buddies, Marcel Duhamel (both were corporals in Constantinople) and Yves Tanguy. They found themselves at 54, rue du Château near Montparnasse, came to know the surrealists…Breton, Desnos … and went to the movies with them.
It is at this time that Prévert wrote his first screenplay, Souvenir de Paris, or Paris-Express, which was directed by his brother Peter and Marcel Duhamel. According to Henri Langlois, it was a “pioneering work of poetic realism,” but the film then remained forgotten before reappearing thirty years later under the title Paris Belle.