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Barbet Schroeder honored at next San Sebastian Fest

The San Sebastian Festival will dedicate a retrospective to French director, Barbet Schroeder

The 54th San Sebastian International Film Festival, to take place from 21st-30th September, will dedicate a retrospective to the French director, producer and actor Barbet Schroeder, promoter in the 60s of the earlier work by Nouvelle Vague directors like Eric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette, and author of a filmography as a moviemaker who has always endeavoured to portray the attitudes of his time.

A pioneer in documentary/fiction fusion and a restless traveller with a lively interest in the particularities of different countries and cultures, Schroeder has created a rich and wealthy list of works ranging from the reflection of burning questions towards the late 60s, such as drugs in More (1969) and free love and the quest for paradise in La Vallée (1972), to the study of masochism in Maîtresse (1976), the political documentary Idi Amin Dada (1974), or an American period starting with the adaptation by Charles Bukowski, Barfly (1987) and including thrillers as peculiar as Reversal of Fortune (1990), Single White Female (1992) or Kiss of Death (1995), to which we have to add his reading of violence in Columbia with La virgen de los sicarios (Our Lady of the Assassins, 2000).

Barbet Schroeder received an Oscar nomination as best director in 1991 for Reversal of Fortune (1990) competed at the Cannes Festival with Barfly (1987) and at the Venice Mostra with La virgen de los sicarios (2000).

He was born in 1941 in Teheran (Iran), where his father, of Swiss origin, was working as a geologist. He studied Philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris and started writing for the Cahiers du Cinema film magazine in 1958. His first work for cinema was a small part as an actor in Jean-Luc Godard’s Les carabiniers (The Carabineers, 1963), the same year in which he started his career as a producer and founded Les Films du Losange, the company financing the first films by Eric Rohmer, La boulangère de Monceau (The Baker of Monceau,1963) (starring Schroeder himself), La carrière de Suzanne (Suzanne’s Career, 1963), La collectionneuse (The Collector, 1967), Ma nuit chez Maud (My Night at Maud’s, 1969) and Le genou de Claire (Claire’s Knee, 1970), among others. His company also produced movies by Jacques Rivette, such as Celine et Julie vont en bateau (Celine and Julie Go Boating, 1974) and by Rainer Werner Fassbinder with Chinesisches roulette (Chinese Roulette, 1976). He similarly produced the collective film, Paris vu par… (Six in Paris, 1965), a group work by the directors Claude Chabrol, Jean Douchet, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Daniel Pollet, Eric Rohmer and Jean Rouch.

In 1969, Schroeder made his directorial debut with More (1969), a film reflecting the way people experimented with drugs and sex at the time which suffered censorship cuts in various countries. The Pink Floyd sound track expressly created for the movie helped to make it into the cult film it remains today. Along the same daring, groundbreaking lines regarding sex, drugs and other elements of the hippie culture, he made La vallée (The Valley, 1972), again with Pink Floyd on the sound track, and the participation of actress Bulle Ogier, Schroeder’s partner ever since. This is the tale of a young girl’s search for paradise as she finds herself among a tribe in the forests of New Guinea. In the 70s, Schroeder also made two documentaries, Idi Amin Dada (1974), on the Ugandan dictator, and Koko, le gorille qui parle (Koko, a Talking Gorilla, 1978), about the use of sign language to communicate with animals, in addition to taking another look at sex via sadomasochism in all its harshness with Maîtresse (Mistress, 1976), starring a young Gerard Depardieu and, once again, the actress Bulle Ogier.

Following Les tricheurs (Cheaters, 1986), a film about addiction to gambling with Jacques Dutronc and Bulle Ogier, Schroeder launched a career in the USA with Barfly (1987) in collaboration with the writer Charles Bukowski on the screenplay starring Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway. In 1990 he made one of his most important films, Reversal of Fortune (1990), based on the true story of an aristocrat accused of murdering his wife. Jeremy Irons won an Oscar and Golden Globe as Best Actor for his part of Claus Von Bulow, with Glenn Close as his wife.

Schroeder continued to explore the drama/thriller combination in films like Single White Female (1992), starring Bridget Fonda and Jason Leigh, presented at the San Sebastian Festival that same year; Kiss of Death (1995), an excellent remake of the film of the same name directed by Henry Hathaway in 1947, this time starring David Caruso, Samuel L. Jackson and Nicolas Cage; Before and After (1996), on how a couple of parents react when their son is accused of murder, starring Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson; and Desperate Measures (1998), about a policeman with a son in need of a bone marrow transplant whose only viable candidate is a serial killer, with Michael Keaton and Andy Garcia.

La virgen de los sicarios (Our Lady of the Assassins, 2000) marked yet another about-turn in Schroeder’s career as he returned to one of the countries in which he had spent part of his childhood, Colombia, to adapt Fernando Vallejo’s conflictive novel. With a digital camera and impressive Steadycam expertise, Schroeder reflects the full thrust of violence in Medellin through the tempestuous love affair between an older man returning to his city of origin and a 16-year-old boy. Murder by Numbers (2002), with Sandra Bullock and Ben Chaplin, is the latest film directed to date by Schroeder, who has also occasionally appeared as an actor in films as widely differing as La reine Margot (Queen Margot, 1994), Mars Attacks! (1996), by Tim Burton and the recent collective film, presented at Cannes, Paris, je t’aime (2006).


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