Film Directors

Jean-Gabriel Albicocco Richard Balducci George Bloomfield Michel Boisrond
Yves Boisset Paul Boujenah Jean-Claude Brialy Les Chatfield
Frank Clark René Clément Philippe de Broca Sylvio de Abreli
Jean Delannoy Adolphe Dhrey Arielle Dombasle Roger Donaldson
Jacques Ertaud André Farwagi J.J. Faure Steve Feke
Bryan Forbes Charles Gérard Régis Gezelbasch Francis Giacobetti
Christian Gion John Guillermain Peter Hall David Hamilton
Douglas Hickox Arthur Hiller Eo Il-Seon Christian Jacque
Lamont Johnson Roger Kahane John Korty J.J. Languepin
Georges Lautner Claude Lelouch René Letzgus Edouard Longeneau
German Lorente David Lowell Rich Nadine Marquand (Trintignant) Eddy Matalou
Richard Michaels Nikita Mikhalkov Bernard Mimet Claude Montrond
Roberto Muller Tohru Murakawa Takashi Nagata Tony Navarro
Jean Negulesco Michel Nerval Hans Noever Michel Nusbaumer
Robert Parrish Jacques Pierre Claude Pinoteau Robert Pouret
Dino Risi Franco Rossi Enrico-Maria Salerno Otto Schenk
Marc Simenon Pierre Sissier Pierre Sonnier Bertrand Tavernier
Henri Verneuil Daniel Vigne Pierre Willemin Michael Winner
Michael Worms Terence Young Claude Zidi

Francis Lai seen by....

Claude Lelouch

Our paces are different, mine and Francis Lai’s. His is slow, mine is fast: I can’t stay put, I need action, I wrote most of my films while driving, running, travelling. Francis, on the other hand, needs his small room in which he can work quietly and calmly. These complementary characteristics are our strength: it’s a kind of human co-production. If you have to work with someone, what’s the point of doing it with yourself? It’s inconceivable to imagine Francis in my place: I can’t see him as a director, on the set of a big production, telling people what to do. As for me, I could never work as he does: alone, shut up in a home studio, working on three little notes that he will take to the end of the world. Those who think they can rush him are mistaken: he must be left to work at his own rhythm. It is balance that makes success possible. Us two, we balance each other out.We’re also aware that the finishing line is close. We’ve started the final sprint. Naturally, I feel more and more compelled to go back to the bare essentials, to give birth to a ‘perfect’ film, to a ‘perfect’ score. After thirty-one drafts, it’s time to do the definitive version. I feel that with What Love May Bring we’ve managed this. But perhaps it’s just another draft? Whatever happens, I can’t wait to share another adventure with Francis. After forty-five years, he’s much more than a friend, an accomplice, a partner in creation. Francis is another me, with musical notes...

Jean-Claude Brialy
I’ve known Francis Lai for a long time and I’ve always been surprised by his humility, the craftsman side of his personality. He is a discreet and generous man. I love his sense of melody, his universe of romanticism and modernity. For all these reasons, Francis was the ideal composer for Loving In the Rain, which I directed in 1974. His sensitivity worked perfectly with the subject and with Romy Schneider’s charisma. Francis knows how to listen to others: before composing he listened to me very carefully, noting down every request. It was necessary to support the fragility of the screenplay, to translate an impression of loneliness with light melodies which accompany emotions without emphasizing them. Our collaboration captivated me because, in the end, Francis is like me: an artist with modesty of feeling.

Dino Risi
Despite having passed rapidly through my life, Francis left his mark on me. We worked together for the first time in 1976, for Lost Souls, a French-Italian co-production. We needed a French composer. Having had the chance to admire many of Francis’ compositions, among which, of course, A Man And A Woman, I seized the opportunity to work with him.I must admit that I like the man very much. He grasps things quickly, in an instinctive rather than intellectual way. Nevertheless, given that he was in Paris and I was in Rome, communication was not ideal. We spoke on the phone, he sent me tapes. In the end, his romanticism acted as a counterpoint to the eerie atmosphere of the film. And also, I find that Francis has that well-disposed attitude, that humanity, common to many other composers I have worked with. Without trying to generalize, they are a more easy-going category of creative professionals than filmmakers or painters. Another of his qualities is humility: like Nino Rota, he is among those composers who are aware that the score is not, of necessity, the main character but rather an accompaniment to the story. Francis’ music is there, always present, it participates in the movie’s expression but it knows how to be discrete if necessary. It doesn’t try to be the star at all costs. Finally, Francis has something in common with Carlo Rustichelli, with whom I have also worked: they both compose very strong themes. Personally, when I go to the cinema, I love to hear a melody which repeats itself, like a leitmotif, and becomes inseparable from the picture.In 1991, when I made I’ll Be Going Now, I thought again of Francis. His work for Lost Souls had left a positive memory in me. I called him and the duo was reformed. This reunion brought back the memory of our first meeting, fifteen years earlier. It was in his studio: Francis settled down at his accordion keyboard and played a number of tunes for me. He seemed discrete and modest, almost an amateur. And I liked that very much: I like artists who have an amateur side. Their sensibility strikes me more. Amateurs like Francis have their own ideas while professionals have other people’s ideas.

Michel Boisrond
Francis and I met while working on Tender Moments in 1968. I was struck from the start by his ease with melody. From this point of view, I immediately found similarities between him and the guitarist Henri Crolla, with whom I had worked on La Parisienne and Come Dance With Me!. Neither of them orchestrated their own music but they worked side by side with professional music arrangers. The result was often satisfying but it didn’t always have the clarity, the purity of the tune that the composer had played for me at the beginning. It’s something different, more ‘written’, less simple. Whereas the reason I appreciated the work of these two composers was precisely for its simplicity. This did not stop me from working with Francis again, in particular on Tom Thumb, in which his music brought back the charm of childhood nursery rhymes, magnificently translating a sense of the marvelous. Finally, my memory of Francis is that of a courteous man, a man who showed great warmth in human relationships. One of the best musical memories of my career is of Francis, at his accordion, presenting his themes to me..

Henri Verneuil
In my eyes, Francis Lai is the aristocrat of melody. But of a bold melody, one which knows how to remain popular. A long time after having forgotten the story, one still remembers the melody, which is extremely annoying for a director. (Laugher) But what a man! And what a contribution he has made!

Michael Winner
In 1967, during the preparation of I’ll Never Forget What’s ‘Is Name, Universal suggested that I entrust Francis Lai with the score for this film. When your employer more or less forces a creative partner on you, you tend to resist, even if the person in question is one of great quality. In this case, re-listening to A Man And A Woman proved to me that it would have been a mistake to deprive myself of Francis’ collaboration.In fact, I believe that each composer has a very specific use. Jerry Fielding, for example, can bring you dynamism, speed. Francis Lai can give you something else. His register is that of feelings. I’ll Never Forget What’s ‘Is Name is a film of sad romanticism: Francis gave it soul and sensitivity. Since then, it has become difficult for me to do without him. Though at the beginning I resisted him, I have become addicted to Francis and his writing, which accompanied me for two more films, Hannibal Brooks and The Games. We haven’t seen each other for several decades but if I were to direct a new film tomorrow, it’s Francis who I would automatically call.

Michel Legrand
In my opinion, Francis Lai is a man of instinct and a melody writer of the kind that are rarely found. He has melodic ideas that nobody has had, has or will have. From this point of view, what he creates is unique. There is a freshness and simplicity in Francis’ writing. He is a two-line musician. But the two lines in question show real character, force and poetry. And what is most important, they belong to him alone. Our paths met on the set of Bolero by Claude Lelouch. The score was really impressive and I had been given the task of composing the American part. I was also in charge of the overall arrangement, including that of Francis’ themes, so that the score would be homogeneous in its orchestral colour. I have to admit that this meeting with Francis’ music was very interesting for me: our respective sensibilities work well together. Francis has a unique virtue: his musical approach is authentic. For him I feel friendship and respect.

Jean-Claude Petit
My relationship with Francis Lai was first of all of a sporting kind, through skiing and tennis. I discovered a shy, modest person, attentive to others. His humility is sincere: he never tries to draw attention to himself, nor does he place himself above what he considers himself to be. In a business where show is the rule, such a personality is quite rare. Having worked with Edith Piaf, Francis represents a certain tradition of popular music. Its main feature is an originality of melodic solutions which is beyond the reach of fashion and trends and is very French in nature. I might even say timeless. A man and a woman, one of his greatest scores, could easily be written today, with the same spirit and the same orchestral solutions. And this is because Francis’ ideas have the advantage of freshness and spontaneity. Ultimately I love Francis and his humanity. And I don’t think I am the only one. Proof of this is the fact that I have never heard anyone speak ill of him.

Entretiens réalisés par Stéphane Lerouge (1994)


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