Claude Autant-Lara

Active - 1915 - 2007  |   Born - Aug 5, 1901   |   Died - Feb 5, 2000   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy Drama, Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

French director Claude Autant-Lara was uprooted from his homeland by his actress-mother Louise Lara during World War I, when her strong pacifist stance forced her to flee to England. Returning to his native country in 1919, Autant-Lara studied art, then worked as a set and costumer designer for the major French filmakers of the 1920s. He broke into directing himself with the surrealistic short Fait Divers (1923), worked in collaboration with Rene Clair afterwards, and returned to solo filmaking in 1926. Most of his early shorts experiment with such nuances as distorted angles and wide screens, but Autant-Lara was capable of such comformist work as the French-language version of Buster Keaton's Free and Easy (1930). In 1933, he directed his first feature, Ciboulette; in his now typical take-your-time fashion, his next feature, the British My Partner Mr. Davis, didn't come out until 1936. Autant-Lara didn't truly flourish until the years of the Occupation (1940-44), during which time he specialized in romantic, nostalgic productions. His first international success was 1946 Le Diable au Corps (aka The Devil in the Flesh), an elegant, mildly erotic and ultimately fatalistic World War I love story, based on a novel by the tragic "child prodigy" Raymond Radiguet. In the mid-1950s Autant-Lara's work became less prominent and he was one of the directors attacked by the New Wave critics for being a paragon of the "French quality" tradition. Autant-Lara remained a filmmaker until 1977, when he directed his last film, Gloria. Thereafter, Claude Autant-Lara was briefly a member of the European Parliament, from which he was forced to resign in 1989 due to a speech wherein he suggested that the Holocaust had never happened, and that France was controlled by Jewish "internationalists."

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