One of the really great producers
by Fabien Lemercier
- Pale Eyes turned out to be the very last film produced by René Cleitman. We now pay tribute to the career of a multi-talented producer recognised the world over
Jérome Bonnell’s Pale Eyes turned out to be the very last film produced by René Cleitman, who died on 14 December 2004 in Paris at the age of 64. We now pay tribute to the career of a multi-talented producer recognised in the whole world thanks, inter alia, to Cyrano in 1990.
With a back catalogue of 23 productions and co-productions, René Cleitman resigned from his post as Director of Programming at Radio Europe 1 to take up cinematographic production in the early 80s. As boss of Hachette Première, he struck gold with only his fourth production, Bertrand Blier’s Menage, which won Michel Blanc a prix d’interprétation at Cannes and picked up 8 César nominations. Then followed Patrice Leconte’s Tandem (1987) and M. Hire (1988-5 César nominations) (nine nominations, one César), and, above all, Bertrand Tavernier’s Life and Nothing But which didn’t do at all badly in the prize-winning stakes: Bafta for that year’s Best Foreign Film, Best Actor César for Philippe Noiret and Best Soundtrack César out of a total of 11 nominations, Best Foreign Actor David for Noiret... But global triumph had to wait a year, and came in the shape of Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s Cyrano; nominated for five Oscars bagging the Best Costume award, and winner, inter alia, of four BAFTAs from eight nominations, of Best Actor prize at Cannes for Gérard Depardieu, of 9 Césars out of 12 nominations, of a David and a Golden Globe for the year’s Best Foreign Film.
In the 90s, René Cleitman continued in much the same vein producing in particular François Dupeyron (A Beating Heart - 1991) and Nikita Mikhalkov (Urga - 1993), without, nonetheless, turning his back on the directors whose films had brought him so much success: Leconte (Tango - 1993), Tavernier (The Bait -1995, Golden Bear at Berlin) and Rappeneau The Horseman on the Roof - 1995, two Césars from ten nominations). He also teamed up with Gérard Depardieu to found HPGD Production so as to produce two films by Nick Cassavetes: Unhook the Stars in 1996 and She's So Lovely in 1997, which wins Sean Penn the prix d’interprétation at Cannes. Apart from the unfortunate episode of the interrupted filming in 2000 of Terry Gilliam’s Don Quixote (see the documentary Lost in La Mancha), there followed five full-length feature films that included Bertrand Blier’s Les Côtelettes, in competition at Cannes in 2002. René Cleitman then left Hachette Première to found Theus Productions in association with Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC). For Jérôme Bonnell’s Pale Eyes, he had disposed of a budget of 2.1 million euros that included 350 000 euros in advance entries from the (CNC)(and a co-production of France 2 Cinéma France 2 Cinéma (530 000 euros including 300 000 euros broadcasting rights).
Over and above his job as producer, René Cleitman had also always invested a great deal in defending cultural exceptions and public grants to the national cinemas by presiding in particular over the Bloc with director Robert Guédiguian. He was also vice-president of the European Cinema Workshops (ACE).
(Translated from French)