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Le Sauvage

Le Sauvage(1975)

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teaser Le Sauvage (1975)

Jean-Paul Rappeneau's Le Sauvage (1975) is an homage to classic Hollywood screwball comedies, only with French stars (Catherine Deneuve and Yves Montand) and set largely in South America. Deneuve departs from her usual cool persona to play a manic Frenchwoman in Venezuela who is on the run from her possessive Italian husband (Luigi Vannucchi), and who proceeds to turn the life of a reclusive perfume maker (Montand) upside-down. Before this, Deneuve had in fact appeared in a wide range of films, including comedies and art house fare by Jacques Demy, Luis Buuel and Marco Ferreri. One of her comic roles was in Jean-Paul Rappeneau's debut feature, A Matter of Resistance/La vie de chteau (1966).

From the late 1960s through the mid-1970s, Yves Montand appeared in some of his most memorable roles, including films by Costa Gavras, Claude Sautet and Jean-Pierre Melville. In Herv Hamon and Patrick Rotman's 1990 biography of Montand, Deneuve recalls working with Montand on Le Sauvage: "I believe that initially he saw me as a rather graceful and futile blonde, a little ambitious. He realized that I was more amicable, very secret, that you can trust me and that I like to listen. Montand is a partner who ruffles you, because he is invested 99%, he goes in totally. And because he wants to direct or codirect. It isn't to take power. No, his "one-man show" habit makes him possess his own vision, a vision of a director."

A French-Italian co-production (Lira Films and Produzioni Artistiche Internazionali), Le Sauvage was shot partly on location in Caracas, Venezuela and in the Bahamas. Headed by the producer Raymond Danon, Lira Films was active mainly during the late Sixties through the late Seventies. It produced a number of notable French films, including Jean-Luc Godard's Weekend (1967), Claude Sautet's Vincent, Franois, Paul and the Others (1974), Joseph Losey's Mr. Klein (1976), Mosh Mizrahi's Madame Rosa (1977), as well as early features by Bertrand Tavernier. After encountering financial troubles, the company was taken over by the French theater chain UGC in 1981. Jean-Paul Rappeneau, the director, began as a screenwriter for films such as Louis Malle's Zazie dans le Mtro (1960). While he has made films periodically since the 1960s, he is best known for his most recent three works, the acclaimed adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac (1990) starring Grard Depardieu, the Jean Giono adaptation The Horseman on the Roof (1995) and Bon Voyage (2003), a drama set during the French Occupation.

Luigi Vannucchi, who plays the obsessive and possessive husband, was an Italian stage, television and film actor who appeared in a few international co-productions, including The Assassination of Trotsky (1972) and The Red Tent (1969). During the 1950s he established a highly successful career as a classically trained stage actor, performing in plays by Aeschylus, Shakespeare, Molire and Pirandello. During the 1960s and 1970s he also appeared in a number of television plays and miniseries for Italian television. Tragically, he committed suicide at the age of 47.

In France, Le Sauvage received four Csar nominations for Best Actress, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Direction. Gene Moskowitz of Variety felt that the film's direction was perhaps too leisurely, but he admired the performances: "Montand is in good form. Bearded and witty, he is a good foil to Deneuve's attempt to let her hair down from her usual cool roles." He added, "Supporting players are helpful, especially Luigi Vannucchi as the bombastic fianc and Tony Roberts as the hapless victim of the stolen, expensive painting. Top technical credits and production dress are added plus factors."

by James Steffen

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