André Téchiné (born March 13, 1943 at Valence-d'Agen (Tarn-et-Garonne) in France), is a French screenwriter and film director. He has had a long and distinguished career that placed him among the best post-New Wave French film directors.
He belongs to a second generation of French film critics associated with Cahiers du cinéma who followed François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard and others from criticism into film-making. Téchiné is noted for his elegant and emotionally charged films that often delve into the complexities of human condition and emotions. An intimist flavor pervades his work.
One of the trademarks of his filmography is the lyrical examination of human relations in a sensitive but unsentimental way, as can be seen in his most acclaimed films: My Favorite Season (1993) and Wild Reeds (1994).
André Téchiné was born on March 13, 1943 at Valence-d'Agen, a small town in the Midi-Pyrénées region, department of Lot-et-Garonne, France. His family, of Spanish ancestry, owned a small business making agricultural equipment. He grew up in the south west French country side and in his adolescence acquired a passion for films. From 1952 to 1959 he went to a catholic boarding school in Montauban. He was allowed to leave the school only on Sunday afternoons when he would go to the cinema, although he often had to return before the screening ended. From 1959 he attended a secular state school, which exposed him to a different culture, with marxist teachers, a cine club and a film magazine, La Plume et l'écran, to which he contributed.
At nineteen he moved to Paris in order to look for a career in filmaking. He failed the entrance examination at France most prominent film school, but started to write reviews for the prestigious Cahiers du cinéma where he worked for four years (1964-1967). His first article was about Truffaut’s The Soft Skin. Téchiné went on to become assistant director for Marc'o on his film Les Idoles (1967) and to Jacques Rivette, (his editor at Carthiers du Cinema) on L’Amour Fou (1969).
Téchiné is noted for his elegant and emotionally charged films that often delve into the complexities of human condition and emotions. An intimist flavor pervades his work. One of the trademarks of his filmography is the lyrical examination of human relations in a sensitive but unsentimental way.
André Téchiné made his debut as director with: Paulina s'en va (1969) in which the title character drifts aimlessly, struggling to find a way out of her disenchantment and find her calling in life. The film, shown at that year's Venice Film Festival, disconcerted audiences and was not actually released until 1975. In the meantime, Téchiné experimented with references to different genres and auteurs while providing screenplays for other directors as: Liliane Dekermadec's Aloise.
Téchiné first came into prominence with his second film: Souvenirs d'en France (1974) a curious mix of black comedy, romantic drama and nostalgia with a distinctly Brechtian imprint. The film was inspired by Orson Wells’s The Magnificent Ambersons and filmed in the director's native village. It is a highly compressed history of a small-town family from early in the century through the Resistance and on to May 1968.
Téchiné's demonstrated his flair for richly textured, atmospheric storytelling with his next film, the aptly titled thriller Barocco (1976), a crime drama, rooted in expressionist surrealism. A boxer who has accepted and then turned down a huge bribe from a politician to tell a lie that will influence an election is killed by a hired assassin, the boxer's girlfriend, eventually falls in love with the killer while trying to remake him into the image of her slain lover. The film could not be more aptly named: it is "baroque" in both its convoluted plot and its elaborate camera movements and widescreen framings resembling Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. This film with its twisted film noir characters and dark, dramatic intensity presages some of André Téchiné subsequent better work.
Three years later, Téchiné earned acclaim for his attempt at biography with Les sœurs Brontë (1979). A profile of the famous Brontë sisters with a love for his subject and an acute artistic vision. The film’s heavy, repressive mood evokes the harshness and injustice of the life that the Brontë sisters endured. The passion and color that is so vivid in their novels was absent from their daily existence, and the film’s appropriately gloomy cinematography – which uses dreary earth colors to emphasize the cold, remote feel – brings this with great poignancy. The film’s main asset is its all-star cast: Isabelle Adjani, Marie-France Pisier and Isabelle Huppert as Emily, Charlotte and Anne Brontë and Pascal Gregory as their ill-fated brother Branwell. However, most critics found this film unable to leap beyond the conventions of film biography.
Hôtel des Amériques (1981), set in Biarritz, explores the strained relationship between a successful middle-aged woman and an unfulfilled and emotionally unbalanced man in a story of a hopelessly ill-matched love. This film marked a turning point in Téchiné’s career, anchoring his work from then on in a more realistic universe from a previous romantic one. For the first time Téchiné let his actors improvise, a practice he has continued ever since, adjusting his scripts to accommodate the new material.“ From Hotel des Amériques onwards my films are no longer genre films” he said, “My inspiration is no longer drawn from the Cinema”. This film also started a long productive collaboration with Catherine Deneuve, his actress-fetish, to which he cast on beautiful characters of willful but at the same time vulnerable women: "There are some directors who are more feminine than others, like Téchiné, like Truffaut. They are an exceptional gift to actresses." Deneuve said about their collaboration.
After making a television production: La Matiouette ou l'arrière-pays, (1983), Téchiné returned to the foreground thanks to Rendez-vous (1985). Here, a would-be actress fleeing her provincial home for Paris is irrationally in love with a sadistic, self-destructive young actor, who caused the death of his former girlfriend. When the actor himself is killed in an accident, or possible suicide, his former mentor/director, and father of the death girl, determines to cast the untried actress in the role that his deceased daughter had. The film is ultimately a vehicle for exploring the violent intensity of certain emotional attachments and their ability to cause one's life to spin off in unexpected directions. This stylishly engrossing tale of obsessive sexuality earned Téchiné the Cannes Festival Best Direction Award.
Le lieu du crime (1986) (Scene of the Crime) begins with a shot right out of the opening of Great Expectations. In the rustic vicinity of a small provincial town, a young boy helps an escaped criminal. The boy (a highly troubled youth himself) disaffected by his parents' divorce, lives with his mother and grandparents while the father lives nearby. The escaped convict commits murder to save the boy from harm but gets involved with the mother. By the time, the boy is planning his first communion; the mother trapped in a humdrum existence has felt in love with the convict and wants to run away with him. The film shares with most of Téchiné's work a restless camera movement and seemingly casual editing that suggest a nervous, intense curiosity, equivalent to an artist's rapid sketching. The gorgeous French countryside serves here as an ironic backdrop for two kinds of characters: those living repressed lives in a stifling bourgeois environment and those, more uninhibited, who play out a series of violent passions, with the boy caught in the middle. Téchiné’s tight, emotionally suppressed, direction worked very well in this thriller.
In his next film, Les Innocents (1987) a young woman, born and raised in Northern France, is visiting the Mediterranean city of Toulon for the first time, prompted by two events: the wedding of her sister, and the disappearance of her brother. He is a deaf-mute who supports himself as a pickpocket under the tutelage of a young Arab and an older bisexual married man with a weakness for young Arabs. The girl meets them and finds herself attracted to the young Arab and the older man's son, who is also bisexual like his father. She is soon torn between the two in a romantic and sexual dilemma that mirrors France's political turmoil regarding the nation's growing Arab population. The lines between love, sex, and politics become blurred in this French drama.
J'embrasse pas (I don't kiss) (1991) is a bleak, melancholic portrait of a young man searching and failing to find meaning in his life. An idealistic seventeen-year-old youth leaves his home in the rural South-West of France, hoping to make a career as an actor in Paris. After an auspicious start in the French capital, he soon discovers that he has no talent as an actor losing soon both his job and his room. In the end, he has to hustle to make a living as a male prostitute. He falls in love with a luckless young prostitute, but the relationship has terrible consequences for him. The film’s fragmented narrative structure and uneven rhythm added to the sense of insecurity experienced by the central character. At the same time, the moody photography – particularly the intense nocturnal scenes – lend an atmosphere of cruel oppression and dark poetry, recurring motifs in Téchiné’s appealing style of cinema.
My Favorite Season (Ma saison préférée) (1993) is a dark and somber story of middle-aged estranged siblings, brother and sister, a provincial lawyer and a skilled surgeon, respectively, who begin to come to terms with what they have become professionally and personally when their aging mother begins to decline after a stroke. Téchiné himself describes Ma Saison Préférée as a film "about individuality and the coldness of the modern world." It earned great acclaim when it was screened in competition at that year's Cannes Festival. The film has great depth and shows profound maturity, perceptiveness and understanding of human relationships. The constantly evolving nature of the relationships between the characters is probably what gives the film its sense of authenticity. The film also makes a touching comment on the harmful effect that the pressures of modern living can have on family life.
The following year, Téchiné had his greatest success to date with Wild Reeds (Les roseaux sauvages) (1994). The film was commissioned by French television as one of part of a series of eight films entitled Tous les garçons et les filles de leur âge, although it was shown first at cinemas. This is a bucolic tale of teenage self-discovery centered on the inner turmoil of four teenagers staying at a boarding school in Provence in 1962, their political and sexual awakenings with the effect the Algerian War as backdrop. The director inspired in his adolescence delivered a limpid and sensual work, bathed by the light of southwest France. Faithful to certain sets of themes (the family bonds, homosexuality, the exile).
This compelling and sensitive coming of age drama is Téchiné’s best film to date. The sumptuous location filming, the quality of the dialogue and the remarkable acting performances make this a memorable and moving film. As in most of Téchiné’s work, the unhurried pace and realistic interactions between the characters allows the audience to become drawn into the film’s tapestry and become emotionally involved with what is shown. Téchiné’s depiction of a young man coming to terms with his homosexuality is particularly moving, perhaps reflecting his own troubled experiences as an adolescent. The film conveys the frustration and optimism of teenage love with a heart-rending effectiveness. Wild Reeds was a hit at the 1994 César award ceremony, winning four out of eight nominations (best film, best director, best script, and best newcomer for Élodie Bouchez. It also won the Prix Delluc in 1994. This was Téchiné’s first film released in the USA (in 1995) and his most autobiographical picture to date.
Further acclaim greeted the director in 1996 with (Thieves) Les voleurs (1996), an ambitious and complex crime drama. The film jumps through time and switches narrative perspectives in a Rashomon-style exploring family and amorous ties. It postulates a fatalisitc world bound by family origins and intense romantic longins in which every character is trapped into becoming a thief of one kind of another, emotionally as well as existentially. This film earned Téchiné nominations for the César and Golden Palme at Cannes, as well as a host of other honors. This, one of Téchiné best films, have a poetic beauty and a novelistic construction with shifting points of view and fractured time, suggesting the influence of William Faulkner.
Téchiné followed this success with Alice et Martin (Alice and Martin) (1998), a haunting love story between two emotionally damaged outsiders. As in his earlier film Les Voleurs, Téchiné told the story out of sequence. This is a film that plays as much to the eyes as to the heart, the somber lurid beauty of photography capturing very well the turmoil and unrest that tortures the lives of the fragile Alice and the bruised Martin.
Loin (Far) (2001) is one of Téchiné's better efforts; the film was shot on digital video using primarily natural light and the slightly patchy video image contributes to the sense of collapse and unease. The film is set in Tangier and is told in three "movements"; the sections marked by chapters. The plot turns around three characters: a truck driver importing goods between Morocco and France tempted to cross the strait to Spain smuggling some drugs; his young Arab friend desperate to go to Europe; and the driver’s Jewish ex-girlfriend who is hesitant about her future migration to Canada. During the three days they are together, some decisions must be made.
Téchiné tactfully renders the confusion and desperation occasioned by these personal dilemmas into a larger canvas of cultural dislocation, identity and friendship. In moving between the stories of his three principal actors, Téchiné establishes both an emotional immediacy and painful confusion that shrewdly captures the intensity of feeling between them, addressing some of the director's trademark themes: family relations, irreconcilable sexual entanglements and the allure of criminal activity.
After two lesser but still ravishing efforts, André Téchiné went back in top form with Strayed (Les égarés) (2003), a fine adaptation of the novel, Le Garçon aux yeux gris, by Gilles Perrault. While Téchiné usually braids several intersecting stories, this engaging wartime drama, traces a single linear tale with only four characters. In 1940, an attractive widow flees Nazi-occupied Paris for the South with her small daughter and teen-age son; a mysterious young man joins them. The foursome find refuge from the war in an abandoned house. As in his previous films, Téchiné quietly navigates the action toward wrenching moments that drive right into the heart.
Set in a rarefied zone of remembrance, Téchiné films record the subtlest nuances of image and character in a tight, restrained style that uncorks big emotional payoffs. This is once of Téchiné's "provincial" films with sumptuous scenes of sunstruck fields and water in the Southern French countryside, where the director was born, the beautiful photography contrast with the horror of the period in which the story is set in this mystical, sensual film about a lost paradise.
Changing Times (Les temps qui changent) (2004) is a warmhearted exploration of cultural collision in contemporary Morocco, oscillating between two worlds and two ideas about the meaning of experience. A middle age construction supervisor comes to Tangier to search for the love of his youth, lost many years ago. She is now married and with a grown up son. They eventually cross paths in a supermarket. Téchiné weaves half dozen subplots, creating a set of variations on the theme of divided sensibilities tugging one another into states of perpetual unrest and possible happiness. Like in most of Téchiné's films, the end is an open question, he refuses to wind his stories into a tight knot and lets most of the threads dangle. Every scene is filled with light, music, activity and a sensuous appreciation of landscape. The characters are continually on the move and behave in mysterious and unpredictable ways. With as fluid directing style, Téchiné is more interested in character than in plot, an unabashed cinema romantic, as Trufaut there are few better directors than Téchiné when it comes to capturing the vagaries of the heart. The theme of this film is ultimately the imperishability of true love.
Téchiné latest film Les Témoins starring Emmanuelle Béart, Michel Blanc, Sami Bouajila and Julie Depardieu, was released in the spring 2007.
André Téchiné is known particularly for his ability to draw strong performances out of his female performers and the most respected French actors have worked with him, including: Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Jeanne Moreau, Emmanuelle Béart, Isabelle Adjani, Isabelle Huppert, Elodie Bouchez, Sandrine Bonnaire, Gérard Depardieu , Daniel Auteuil, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Philippe Noiret.