Writer/director Maurice Pialat was a brilliant director but a notoriously difficult person. He was famous for his tense film sets, angry actors and his firing of multiple cinematographers and editors in a row on a single film. In general, it seemed he had a talent for making others despise him.
The fact that this feeling was not universal among his collaborators was largely overlooked by the industry; people preferred to play up the horror stories. Evelyne Ker, the actress who played Suzanne’s mother in Pialat’s celebrated À NOS AMOURS, described her experience, which gives a more complete picture of the ups and downs of working with Pialat:
“During the shooting we often had a good time. There was a tremendous bond between us, and lots of jokes. Pialat, its true, also needs psychodrama, tension, in order to create. So there were conflicts. Depending on his anxieties, depending on the day, he has his scapegoats. Something had to come from us that got him started, if not, he was bored, he got nothing done. But when we got started, it was endless like life itself, he just ate us up!”
In spite of early critical and commercial success, Pialat’s name was never mentioned among the great auteurs of his period. His of popularity made him easy to ignore, as did his decidedly unique and untrendy aesthetic.
But when UNDER THE SON OF SATAN won the Palme D’Or at Cannes in 1987, suddenly, the outsider that the industry loved to ignore was in the spotlight, for a film that the French public had already declared a bomb. In this video from the awards ceremony, Catherine Deneuve has to fight to silence the audience boos to let Pialat speak. Once he does, he gives it right back to them. Take a look at this incredible moment of Cannes history, now with subtitles.