Claude Lelouch – Un Homme et une Eclair CM3
In the late 1960s, when I was an early teenager, ABC-TV ran A Man And A Woman on the Sunday Night Movie of the Week. Up to that time about the only foreign films I had seen were Italian Hercules movies, which weren’t good even then. But I was curious what all the buzz was in the air about foreign film. Once A Man And A Woman started I was glued to the screen.
At that point in filmmaking hand-held camera was mostly used only fleetingly in fight scenes in movies and as a quick second-unit shot. But I always found hand-held camera to be alive and immediately involving, liberated from the confines of the tripod and dolly. I was wondering how a whole film shot without the shackles of locked down camera would be? A Man And A Woman was the film I had been waiting for. Shot almost entirely hand-held or on a tripod with an active zoom lens — the camerawork made the movie completely captivating and alive.
The next day I was in the school library pouring through back issues of magazines doing research on this movie and who had made it.
A Man And A Woman had been made for practically no money at the time — $100,000 dollars at the time. It had been written, produced, financed, directed, photographed and co-edited by one man — Claude Lelouch. It was shot with a minimal crew of just a handful. The film won the 1966 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, the first non-English language film to do this. The film was a world wide phenomenon.
From then on I’ve been a lifelong fan of Claude Lelouch and his free form filmmaking style. He has also been a role model for me in shaping my own method of one-man filmmaking. (I still dream of one day having my own Eclair CM3 motion picture camera.)
Lelouch followed up A Man And A Woman with Vivre Pour Vivre (Live For Life), which I still have not seen. But along the way I did come into possession of a 16mm behind-the-scenes promotional featurette on Lelouch making Vivre Pour Vivre, which is posted here.
Lelouch has enjoyed a longer career than most in the film business. He’s made over 40 films, all as a multi-talent — writing, shooting and directing — and is still working. The last of his films to be released in the U.S. a few years ago, Roman de Gare, is available on DVD exclusively through Blockbuster. I have a couple previously-viewed copies and have probably now watched the film at least a dozen times.
At a time when “foreign film” meant gritty, documentary-style and politcal statements, Claude Lelouch tackled more universal and human themes with all the color and style of a glossy fashion look.
He has put the Eclair CM3 on the shelf in favor of a Sony HD camcorder to shoot his movies. I saw Roman de Gare, at the cinema on a big screen and would never have imagined that he’s shot in on High-Definition video. Still rich and stylish, with a timeless touch of Hollywood glamour — I view it as one of the best photographed films of recent years.
Lelouch’s films don’t often get released in the U.S. You have to make the effort to find them, but they are always worth the journey.
Most of Lelouch’s films have not been released in the U..S., which is true of the vast majority of foreign movies, for better or worse. I have managed to buy many of them on DVD from Canada, which has a closer connection to France, and play in the U.S. Region 1 and have English subtitles.
I have even bought a few DVDs from France, without subtitles. No, I don’t speak French, though now I wish I’d studied it in school. The French DVDs that I have include amazing behind-the-scenes footage of Lelouch at work. One of my coworkers who is fluent in French has translated some of these scenes for me.
The most amazing revelation to how Lelouch works now is that he doesn’t let his actors see the script. On long-running single camera shots he’ll give the actors their lines, but not the lines of the other actors in the scenes. He likes to shoot only one take to keep everyone on their toes. And in dialogue scenes between two actors he shoots them with two cameras, one camera framed up on each actor, then Lelouch sits off to the side of the scene with script in his lap and feed each line to each actor as they go with cameras rolling and no cutting. I have never ever seen anything like this before.
Check out the DVD of A Man And A Woman with DVD Extras showing the behind-the-scenes making of the film.