Duras’s ‘stolen’ movie

Why did Marguerite Duras not get more credit for having written La Voleuse? TV5 Monde has broadcast the otherwise ordinary-looking 1966 black and white film 3 times recently without advertising or mentioning ahead that it’s a film by Duras. I myself started watching it with no idea she had written it even though I had written my doctoral dissertation on her and knew her since 1973. But then, she didn’t exactly get the writing credit. The opening screens announced that it’s a “un film de Jean Chapot,” a “un Scénario de Jean Chapot” and “D’après une idée générale d’Alain Fatou et Jean Chapot.” Only after that, when most people’s eyes glaze over, do they add “Dialogues de Marguerite Duras.”

How is it possible that she wrote the dialogue but not the scenario?! Turns out: the film was based on a real-life crime scandal at the time. I’m guessing that Jean Chapot and Alain Fatou had the idea to make a film about it and asked Marguerite to write the dialogues. That, I’m hypothesizing, was their contribution. The film sounds too much like Duras not to have been her take on the entire crime.

It’s a variation on Moderato Cantabile and many of her other works. Its location – a dull, factory town dominated by smokestacks; its main male character – a factory worker like Chauvin but, instead of Jean-Paul Belmondo, it’s a young Michel Piccoli; and the themes – the conflation of love, madness and death along with the power of the maternal bond.

There is even scene in Voleuse that is practically identical to the climax in Moderato. The couple sit at a restaurant (or bar) table across from each other, the husband says to his wife: “Je t’aime mais je pourrais te tuer.”
Moderato, written about the same time, has the couple sitting opposite eachother at a bar, when Chauvin says to Anne: “Je voudrais que tu sois morte.”

Laure Adler quotes a commentator who says that Duras ‘stole’ the film from the director. The press was accepting it as a work of Duras. “Duras fait du Duras.”

For all of you Duras fans, if TV5 Monde broadcasts it again, I recommend you watch it and add it to your knowledge of her.

Trailer for La Voleuse (1966): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NI8HQY7Mkrc

German Wikipedia article on the film: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schornstein_Nr._4 (“Chimney #4”)

Laure Adler: Marguerite Duras (Gallimard, 1998, p. 414), writeup of La Voleuse in a biography of Duras in French

This entry was posted in Cultural Perspectives, Films, News from France. Bookmark the permalink.

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