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Culture

French director Georges Lautner dies at 87

© AFP

Text by Thomas HUBERT

Latest update : 2013-11-24

French director and screen writer Georges Lautner died at the age of 87 in Paris on Friday after a distinguished career in which he directed more than 40 popular movies with stars including Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon.

French filmmaker Georges Lautner died in Paris Friday at the age of 87 after a distinguished career in which he directed more than 40 popular movies with stars including Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon.

To his fans, Lautner's name evokes elegant French gangsters in black and white, wielding silencer guns and trading chiselled dialogue to comic background music.

Lautner’s "Les Tontons Flingueurs" ("Crooks in Clover"), starring Bernard Blier and Lino Ventura, was an instant box-office hit in 1963.

His rapid-fire editing delivered Michel Audiard’s dialogue between ageing mobsters with the accuracy of a bull’s-eye shot. Fifty years on, French people still routinely quote from the cult 'Tontons', for example a scene in which characters comment on a strong drink by saying,  “This is not just apple…"

“Georges Lautner staged quality laughter in films that were funny and comical, but never vulgar,” said actor and "Tontons" co-star Claude Rich.

Popular following and critical recognition

Lautner attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers to movie theatres  and millions to countless television re-runs. While critics did not always receive his films positively, he gradually attracted praise from France’s high-brow cinema establishment as his career developed.

“He was a charming, modest man and a sure hand at his trade,” Gilles Jacob, the president of the Cannes Film Festival, wrote on Twitter on Saturday (right).

French culture minister Aurélie Filippetti paid tribute to the “unforgettable script writer and director”. “The public will remember the whirlwind of life, farce and laughter that ran through Georges Lautner’s works,” she added in a statement.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, Lautner’s films became darker. Alain Delon starred in two of his police dramas, while Jean-Paul Belmondo developed his trademark combination of Gallic charm and explosive stunts in a series of productions including the 1980 hit "Le Professionnel" ("The Professional").

Lone policemen battling entrenched criminals against a background of political manipulation dominated those films, while Lautner continued to direct lighter comedies.

“He was a scientist of popular cinema,” said Lautner’s friend Rémy Julienne, who performed stunts in many of his films and announced his death late on Friday night.

Trailer: Les Tontons Flingueurs (1963)

Date created : 2013-11-23

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