Berri is surely the only French filmmaker to have won an Academy Award at the start of his career—for his 1962 short Le Poulet. A veritable film industry impresario, in addition to directing 21 films, he produced 58 features, set up distribution company AMLF in 1973, and was appointed President of the Cinémathèque Française in 2003. As producer he mixed domestic box-office smashes like Welcome to the Sticks with films d’auteur by the likes of Garrel, Pialat, Polanski, Téchiné, and Kechiche. He broke into films with small acting roles in films by Chabrol, Becker, Clouzot, and Renoir among others, and in fact continued to act throughout his career. Indeed, initially he was a triple-threat actor-writer-director, playing a character called Claude in five semi-autobiographical comedy-dramas.
Firmly ensconced in the mainstream, his directing career couldn’t be further from the New Wave and post-New Wave cinema. While a handful of his early films received U.S. distribution, for the most part his light comedy dramas of the 1970s and early 1980s remain unknown to American audiences. All this changed with his international breakthrough in 1987 with the classic Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources diptych, which marked a new phase in his career as he pivoted to a series of large-scale period dramas rooted in French heritage.
The Quad is proud to present this retrospective with a selection of films from both halves of Berri’s career in conjunction with our 50th anniversary presentation of his celebrated first film The Two of Us.