[from interview]

1962

               

RAOUL COUTARD

Born: 16 September 1924, Paris, France.

Career: 'I was born in Paris in the 4th arrondissement. My mother was a Parisian, and my father came from Mayenne. He worked as an accountant in the Pharmaceutical Company Roche. I never dreamed of working on a movie, I always wanted to be a chemist. I was enrolled in a chemist school, but due to financial reasons, I was not able to attend the classes and I was therefore transferred to studying photography. In 1945 I was engaged in an expedition in the Far East, where war was waged with the Japanese, after which we left for Indochina.' He worked as still ph in Vietnam for 11 years: 5½ years with the French Expeditionary Forces and 5½ years as a freelancer for the magazines 'Life', 'Paris Match', 'Indochine Sud-Est Asiatique' and 'Radar'. In 1953-54 he ph his first short doc in Laos for 'La section d'action psychologique' of the Ministry of Information. With Jean-Michel de Kermadec he made a doc on the city of Cholon [near Saigon].

Ph commercials dir by Edouard Molinaro, a.o.

His ph of 'A bout de souffle' is discussed in the book 'Reflections - Twenty-One Cinematographers at Work' by Benjamin Bergery.

Appeared in the doc's 'Cinéma de notre temps: La nouvelle vague par elle-même' [1964, André S. Labarthe & Robert Valey; 52m], 'Léaud l'unique' [2001, Diane Baratier; 59m] & 'Raoul Coutard: de Saigon à Hollywood' [2006, Matthieu Serveau; 58m].

Awards: As doph: Preis der deutschen Filmkritik [1961] for 'À bout de souffle' & 'Tirez sur le pianiste'; BAFTA Film Award nom [1968] for 'The Sailor from Gibraltar'; 'César' Award [1978] for 'Le crabe-tambour'; Cannes IFF 'Grand Prix Technique' from the CST [1982] & 'César' Award nom [1983] for 'Passion'; Venice FF 'Special Prize' [1983; shared] for 'Prénom Carmen'; 'Genie' Award nom [1991; shared] for 'Bethune: The Making of a Hero'; ASC International Award [1997]; Marburger Kamerapreis [2001]; 'Manaki Brothers' Film Camera Festival, Bitola, 'Golden Camera 300 for Lifetime Achievement' [2003].

As dir: Prix Jean Vigo [1970] & Cannes FF 'Best First Work' & 'Palme d'or' nom [1970] for 'Hoa-Binh'.


"Une femme est une femme" [1961]


'In writing about Raoul Coutard's work one should perhaps start by saying that there is no such thing as the typical Coutard 'look', since he shuns any particular style, preferring to adapt his images to suit each film and its director. Of course, definite Coutard trademarks - the hand-held camera, imaginative employment of natural light - spring to mind immediately one thinks of his name, but these are the tools with which an artist plies his trade and by themselves do not constitute an inimitable style (as anyone who saw some of the countless slavish imitations spawned in the wake of 'A bout de souffle' will testify - if they've recovered from the eye strain they suffered struggling to follow what looked like the adventures of a trampoline family on the dark side of the moon). All this is not to denigrate Coutard's many splendid achievements, the best of which are unforgettable; the harsh fluorescent hell of Alphaville; the vividly beautiful landscapes of Pierrot's worlds, both real and imaginary; the delicate, almost magical lighting for Lola's gentle fairy tale. In recent times, however, Coutard's credits have been limited to rather undistinguished commercial ventures. It would indeed be ironic if the cameraman whose name is synonymous with the 'Nouvelle Vague' of the early 60's should become a key member of the establishment in the 70's.' [David J. Badder in 'Film Dope', #8, October 1975.]

1963

'If François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard could be said to be the parents of French new wave cinema, Raoul Coutard was its midwife. He was director of photography on 17 Godard films, as well as four by Truffaut, and there is little doubt that the look of the nouvelle vague in the 1960s would have been very different without Coutard.

In 1956 Coutard, a 35-year-old veteran of the French Indo-Chinese conflict and a Paris Match war photographer, became a director of film photography without ever having held a movie camera. He was asked to "do the photos" for a French-Italian romantic adventure set in Afghanistan - 'La passe du diable', directed by Pierre Schoendoerffer. "I agreed," Coutard tells me when we meet in Paris, "but if I had known that the job was actually director of photography and that the film was to be in CinemaScope, I would never have said yes."

The link with Godard was forged in 1959 by another seminal figure of the new wave - Georges de Beauregard. The producer-godfather imposed Coutard on Godard, even though the director had already chosen someone else to be his director of photography on 'A bout de souffle'.

Given the apparent visual harmony with which Coutard and Godard later worked, it is hard to believe what an ill-matched couple they were to begin with. For one thing, as Coutard puts it: "Jean-Luc is a fascist of the left, and I am a fascist of the right. But I had an advantage. Jean-Luc said, 'We will shoot this film as if we were reporting a story.' And since I was a photo-journalist, that suited me."

After the film's success, Coutard found himself being passed around among other new wave directors. "The new wave was a Cahiers du Cinéma mafia," Coutard says, referring to the film magazine that spawned a generation of critics-turned-directors. "If you were not in the Cahiers, you didn't get a look in."

Truffaut then chose Coutard (in preference to the celebrated cinematographer Henri Decaë) for 'Tirez sur le pianiste'. However, says Coutard, for all the film's anarchic look and subject matter, he found Truffaut to be a traditional director. "He was very thrown by this new working method," he says. Godard, on the other hand, would work on a day-to-day basis, scribbling dialogue on a big jotter pad and dictating it to the actors.

Coutard learned early on how to handle Godard's notorious tantrums: "If you went to him with a problem while he was thinking through a scene, he would fly into a terrible rage. So you waited until he was idle. With cameramen and directors, the problem is always one of communication. When you arrive, the director has already been working on the scenario - perhaps for months. He has his own vision , then you arrive with your vision."

After finishing 'Week End' in 1967, Godard made a dramatic announcement. "Jean-Luc rang and asked me to come over," Coutard says. "When I arrived at his apartment, he said to me, 'I've had a revelation. I am a Marxist-Leninist so I can no longer make films with capitalist money.' Actually, it is the leftists who rip you off. If you want to get paid, you work for a good capitalist company, like Gaumont, which we did."

For the next decade Godard worked on the margins of cinema. Then, in 1981, he and Coutard were back working together again, on the film 'Passion'. This was followed by 'Prénom Carmen' in 1983.

Shortly after this, the partnership ended, for good, because of a banal dispute. In 1985 Godard's new partner, film-maker Anne-Marie Miéville, rang Coutard and asked if he would take over as cinematographer on her new film; she had fired her director of photography. Coutard agreed, but said that since being fired was such a humiliating experience, as a matter of courtesy he would like first to talk to the dismissed cameraman to hear his side of the story - could he have a contact number? The information was refused and Coutard turned down the job, on principle.

Some months later, Godard rang inviting him to be director of photography on his next film, 'Détective'. Coutard agreed and was told to make contact with the office of the producer. But when Coutard rang, the office mysteriously claimed that nothing was known about his engagement and they refused to return his calls. One of the script writers was Anne-Marie Miéville. And that was the end of a historic association - one of the treasures of French cinema.' [From article by Peter Lennon in 'The Guardian', June 9, 2001.]



 FEATURE FILMS

1956

La passe du diable/The Devil's Pass [Jacques Dupont & Pierre Schoendoerffer] cs/c

1958

Ramuntcho [Pierre Schoendoerffer] c

1958

Pêcheur d'islande/Island Fishermen [Pierre Schoendoerffer] ds/c

1959

A bout de souffle/Breathless [Jean-Luc Godard] b&w

1959

Tirez sur le pianiste/Shoot the Piano Player/Shoot the Pianist [François Truffaut] ds/b&w

1960

Les grandes personnes/Time Out for Love [Jean Valère] b&w

1960 Lola [Jacques Demy] fs/b&w

"Le petit soldat"

1960

Le petit soldat/The Little Soldier [Jean-Luc Godard] b&w; released in 1963

1961

Jules et Jim/Jules and Jim [François Truffaut] fs/b&w

1961

Une femme est une femme/A Woman Is a Woman [Jean-Luc Godard] fs/c

1961

Tire au flanc/The Army Game/The Sad Sack [Claude de Givray; superv by François Truffaut] fs/b&w; + small part

1961

L'amour à vingt ans/Love at Twenty [seg 'Antoine et Colette' dir by François Truffaut] fs/b&w; 5 seg; other ph: Mario Montuori, Wolf Wirth, Shigeo Hayashida & Jerzy Lipman

1962

Vivre sa vie [: Film en douze tableaux]/My Life to Live [Jean-Luc Godard] b&w

1962

Et Satan conduit le bal.../And Satan Calls the Turns/Satan Leads the Dance [Grisha M. Dabat] b&w

1962

La poupée/The Doll/He, She or It! [Jacques Baratier] fs/c

1962

Als twee druppels water/De donkere kamer van Damocles/The Spitting Image/Inconnu aux services secrets [Fons Rademakers] fs/b&w

1962

Les carabiniers/The Riflemen [Jean-Luc Godard] b&w

1963

Les plus belles escroqueries du monde/The Beautiful Swindlers [seg 'Le grand escroc' dir by Jean-Luc Godard] fs/b&w; 4 seg (seg by Godard was cut from the film and shown separately); other ph: Jean Rabier, Tonino Delli Colli, Jerzy Lipman & Asakazu Nakai

"Le mépris" [with spoken credits]

[Right] Raoul Coutard

1963

Le mépris/Il disprezzo/Contempt [Jean-Luc Godard] fs/c; + small part

1963

La difficulté d'être infidèle/Bonne à tout faire [Bernard Toublanc-Michel] ?

1963

Les baisers [Charles L. Bitsch, Bertrand Tavernier, Claude Berri, Jean-François Hauduroy & Bernard Toublanc-Michel] b&w; 5 seg

1963

La peau douce/The Soft Skin [François Truffaut] b&w

1964

Bande à part/Band of Outsiders [Jean-Luc Godard] b&w

1964

Une femme mariée [: Suite de fragments d'un film tourné en 1964]/A Married Woman [Jean-Luc Godard] b&w

1964

Un monsieur de compagnie/Male Companion [Philippe de Broca] c

1964

La 317e section/The 317th Platoon [Pierre Schoendoerffer] b&w

1965

Alphaville [ou une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution] [Jean-Luc Godard] b&w

1965

Je vous salue, Mafia/Hail, Mafia [Raoul Lévy] b&w

"Pierrot le fou"

1965

Pierrot le fou/Crazy Pete [Jean-Luc Godard] ts/c

1965

The Sailor from Gibraltar [Tony Richardson] b&w

1966

The Defector/L'espion [Raoul Lévy] c

1966

Made in U.S.A. [Jean-Luc Godard] ts/c

With dir Jean-Luc Godard [left] - "Deux ou trois choses que je sais d'elle"

1966

Deux ou trois choses que je sais d'elle/Two or Three Things I Know About Her [Jean-Luc Godard] ts/c

1967

La chinoise [ou plutôt à la chinoise] [Jean-Luc Godard] c

1967

L'horizon [Jacques Rouffio] c

1967

La mariée était en noir/The Bride Wore Black [François Truffaut] c

1967

Week End [Jean-Luc Godard] c

1968

The Southern Star/L'étoile du sud [Sidney Hayers] ts/c

With dir Costa-Gavras [right] - "Z"

1968

Z [Costa-Gavras] c; + small part

1969

L'aveu/The Confession [Costa-Gavras] c; + small part

1970

Êtes-vous fiancée à un marin grec ou à un pilote de ligne? [Jean Aurel] c

1970

La liberté en croupe [Edouard Molinaro] c

1970

L'explosion/The Hideout/Sex Explosion [Marc Simenon] c; + small part

1970

Les aveux les plus doux/The Most Gentle Confessions [Edouard Molinaro] c

1971

The Jerusalem File/Jerusalem, Jerusalem [John Flynn] c; addph: Brian Probyn

1971

Embassy/Target: Embassy [Gordon Hessler] c

1972

Le trèfle à cinq feuilles/Five Leaf Clover [Edmond Freess] c

1972

Le gang des otages/The Hostage Gang/The Hostages [Edouard Molinaro] c

1973

L'emmerdeur/Allez-vous perdre ailleurs/A Pain in the A... [Edouard Molinaro] c

1973

Voulez-vous tuer avec moi? [Michel Audiard] ?

1974

Comme un pot de fraises!/Like a Pot of Strawberries [Jean Aurel] c

1977

Le crabe-tambour/Drummer-Crab [Pierre Schoendoerffer] c

1979

Tout dépend des filles.../All Depends on Girls [Pierre Fabre] c; tech adv; ph: Alain Masseron

1981

Passion/Godard's Passion [Jean-Luc Godard] c

1982

Flash-back/Un jour ou l'autre [Olivier Nolin] c

1983

Prénom Carmen/First Name: Carmen [Jean-Luc Godard] c; cph: Jean-Bernard Menoud

1983

La diagonale du fou/Dangerous Moves [Richard Dembo] c

1983

La garce [Christine Pascal] c

1984

Du sel sur la peau [Jean-Marie Degèsves] c

1985

Un secret dans la tête [Olivier Nolin] status unknown

1985

Max, mon amour/Max My Love [Nagisa Oshima] p/c

1986

Fuegos [Alfredo Arias] c

1987

Bethune: The Making of a Hero/Dr. Bethune [Phillip Borsos] c; cph: Mike Molloy; loc shooting China (April-August); shooting continued in March 1988

1987

Blanc de Chine/Chinese White [Denys Granier-Deferre] c

1987

Brennende Betten/Burning Beds [Pia Frankenberg] c

1988

Ne réveillez pas un flic qui dort/Let Sleeping Cops Lie/Never Wake a Cop [José Pinheiro] c

1988

Peaux de vaches/Thick Skinned [Patricia Mazuy] c; uncred

1989

Il gèle en enfer [Jean-Pierre Mocky] c

1990

La femme fardée [José Pinheiro] c

1990

Les enfants volants/The Flying Children [Guillaume Nicloux] c; cph: Jean Badal

1992

La vie crevée/Punctured Life [Guillaume Nicloux] c

1993

La naissance de l'amour/The Birth of Love [Philippe Garrel] b&w; cph: André Clément

1993

Faut pas rire du bonheur/Happiness Is No Joke [Guillaume Nicloux] c

1993

Le crime du Padre Amaro [Olivier Nolin] status unknown

1994

Le géographe Manuel [Michel Sumpf] b&w/silent (1st part) & c/sound (2nd part); cph: Denis Lenoir, William Lubtchansky, Pascal Marti, Jacques Loiseleux, Dominique Chapuis, Agnès Godard, Renato Berta, Romain Winding, a.o.

1995

Le coeur fantôme/The Phantom Heart [Philippe Garrel] c; cph: Jacques Loiseleux

2001

Sauvage innocence/Wild Innocence [Philippe Garrel] s35/b&w


 SHORTS, DOCUMENTARIES & TELEVISION

1956

Paradiso terrestre/Earthly Paradise [Luciano Emmer & Robert Enrico] c; doc/87m; cph: ?

1957

Than le pêcheur [Pierre Schoendoerffer] c; short/26m

1959

Ne tuez pas votre enfant [?] ?; short/?m

1959

Nicky et Kitty [André Mercier] ?; doc/13m

1959

Doit-on les punir? [Henri Calef] ?; doc/22m; cph: G. Raulet

1960

La chute [?] ?

1960

Petit jour [Jacques Pierre] b&w; mus short/16m; cph: Guy Suzuki

1960

Chronique d'un été/Chronicle of a Summer [: Paris, 1960] [Jean Rouch & Edgar Morin] b&w; doc/85m; cph: Roger Morillière, Jean-Jacques Tarbès & Michel Brault

1960

Bourdelle, sculpteur monumental [Albert Navarra] 16mm/b&w; doc/18m; cph: Claude Beausoleil

1960

Singal, l'antilope sacrée [Raoul Coutard] ?; short/?m

1962

Vacances portugaises/Les égarements/Portuguese Vacation/Les sourires de la destinée [Pierre Kast] b&w; short/57m

1964

L'avatar botanique de Mlle. Flora [Jeanne Barbillon] ?; short/14m

1964

Les voix d'Orly [Robert Lachenay] ?; exp short/8m

1965

Scruggs/A Game Called Scruggs [David Hart] b&w; short/54m; uncred cph: David Muir

1966

Riom le beau [Louis Guilbert] ?

1967

Tu es danse et vertige [Raoul Coutard] ?; short/?m

1967

Vive eau [Louis Roger] c; doc/13m

1968

Au péril de la mer [Louis Roger] c; doc/13m

1968

Rocky Road to Dublin [Peter Lennon] 16mm/b&w-c; doc/70m

1968

Concerto Brandebourgeois [François Reichenbach (FR)] c; mus short/12m; cph: F. Reichenbach

1970

Eici, l'aigo es d'or [Louis Guilbert] c; short/417mtr

1970

Jolly Green [Raoul Coutard] ?; doc/40m

1974

Le mouvement des eaux [Louis Guilbert & Jacques Rouxel] ?; doc/?m

1977

[Le défilé du] 14 juillet [Raoul Coutard] 16mm/c; doc/13m

1985

Parachute [Sabine Eckhard] b&w; short/13m

1985

Diabolique [Frédéric Schoendoerffer] cs/?; short/?m

1988

La piste aux étoiles [Guillaume Nicloux] ?; short/?m

1990

Nachbarschaft [Sabine Eckhard] c; short/9m

1990

Kaffeeklatsch [Sabine Eckhard] c; short/15m

1991

Maigret et les plaisirs de la nuit [José Pinheiro] tvm; ep of 'Maigret'-series

1991

Something's Wrong with You [Roger Walter] c; short/11m

1996

Jeden Tag Weihnachten/Chaque jour est Noël [Miko Zeuschner] c; student film/37m


 FILMS AS DIRECTOR

1960

Singal, l'antilope sacrée [short; + ph] see Shorts etc.

1967

Tu es danse et vertige [short; + ph] see Shorts etc.

1969

Hoa-Binh/The Bamboo Incident [feature; + scrpl] ph: Georges Liron

1970

Jolly Green [doc; + ph] see Shorts etc.

1974

Une nuit en Lorraine [tvm/?m] ph: ?

1975

La ville étranglée [co-d: Jean Larteguy; tv-doc/?m] ph: ?

1976

La marche verte [doc/?m] ph: ?

1976

Les deux pieds sur terre [tv-doc/?m] ph: ?

1977

[Le défilé du] 14 juillet [doc; + ph] see Shorts etc.

1977

L'adjudant Chef X [tv] ph: ?

1979

La légion saute sur Kolwezi/Military Coup in Kolwezi/Operation Leopard [feature] ph: Georges Liron

1982

S.A.S. à San Salvador/SAS Malko - "Terminate with Extreme Prejudice" [feature] ph: Georges Liron