Tribute

Nine scenes that pay tribute to legendary French cinematographer Raoul Coutard

The master lensman of the films of Jean-Luc Godard, Costa-Gavras, Francois Truffaut and Philippe Garrel has died at the age of 92.

The Guardian obituary of Raoul Coutard (Sept 16, 1924-November 8, 2016) describes him as “one of the great modern cinematographers and the principal lighting cameraman of the French New Wave”. This is no exaggeration. Coutard, who has died at the age of 92, was to the films of Jean-Luc Godard what Sven Nykvist was to Ingmar Bergman and Subrata Mitra to the early works of Satyajit Ray – the indispensable fellow traveller without whom their cinema would not be what it is.

Among Coutard’s stylistic characteristics were long and fluid takes, the use of natural light, the ability to create a documentary feel to the events being filmed, smooth camera movements despite shooting on real locations and iconic close-ups. He trained as a stills photographer and later worked in documentaries before making the leap into cinema with the French New Wave in the 1960s.

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A video essay on Raoul Coutard and the French New Wave.

Coutard also directed three films, including Hoa Binh (1970), in which he revisited the 11 years he spent in Vietnam in the ’40s and ‘50s through the experiences of a young boy during the Vietnam War.

One of Coutard’s early contributions was to the documentary Chronicle of a Summer (1961) about the humans of Paris and directed by Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin.

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‘Chronicle of a Summer’.

Coutard’s breakthrough was in Jean Luc-Godard’s French New Wave classic Breathless (1960). Many of the stylistic elements on which Coutard built his reputation are present in Godard’s visionary movie. Coutard shot most of Godard’s best-known titles, including A Woman is a Woman (1961), The Little Soldier (1963), Band of Outsiders (1963), Alphaville (1965), Pierrot le Fou (1965) and Passion (1982).

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‘Pierrot le Fou’.

Coutard also forged a brief partnership with Godard’s French New Wave ally and future foe, Francois Truffaut, lensing his Shoot the Piano Player (1960), Jules et Jim (1962), and The Bride Wore Black (1968).

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‘Jules et Jim’.

Rocky Road to Dublin (1967), Peter Lennon’s documentary about the oppressive policies that governed Ireland, was among the non-fiction films that Coutard shot in between working on Godard’s Weekend (1967) and Truffaut’s The Bride Wore Black.

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‘Rocky Road to Dublin’.

Although Coutard was most closely associated with Godard, he also worked with other big-name European directors, including Jacques Demy. Lola (1961) is a tribute to Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel (1930) as well as the cinema of Max Ophuls.

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‘Lola’.

Coutard went behind the camera for Costa-Gavras’s Z (1969), loosely based on the real-life assassination of a charismatic Greek politician and the subsequent cover-up. Z created a template of sorts for how political thrillers were narrated and shot. Costa-Gavras’s Confession (1970), about the imprisonment and torture of a Czech Communist leader, was also shot by Coutard.

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‘Z’.

Coutard’s later collaborators include Guillaume Nicloux (Faut Pas Rire du Bonheur, 1994) and Philippe Garrel (The Birth of Love, 1993, and Wild Innocence, 2001). Wild Innocence, about the production of a film about heroin consumption, was Coutard’s last assignment.

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‘Wild Innocence’.

Coutard’s best moments are to be found in the films of Jean-Luc Godard. In an interview to the Observer newspaper in 2010, Coutard reflected on Breathless, where it all began: “I’m aware now that what we made was iconic, but at the time… no. I used a Caméflex Éclair 35mm camera and they always say oh, ‘handheld’ photography. It’s true that it was light and easy to move and reload quickly but it made one hell of a noise. I still have that terrible din in my ears. Do I still have the camera that captured those iconic shots? No, no, no. It was a cheap movie. We hired the camera and had to give it back.”

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‘Breathless’.
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Advice from an ex-robber on how to keep your home safe

Tips on a more hands-on approach of keeping your house secure.

Home, a space that is entirely ours, holds together our entire world. Where our children grow-up, parents grow old and we collect a lifetime of memories, home is a feeling as much as it’s a place. So, what do you do when your home is eyed by miscreants who prowl the neighbourhood night and day, plotting to break in? Here are a few pre-emptive measures you can take to make your home safe from burglars:

1. Get inside the mind of a burglar

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Burglars study the neighbourhood to keep a check on the ins and outs of residents and target homes that can be easily accessed. Understanding how the mind of a burglar works might give insights that can be used to ward off such danger. For instance, burglars judge a house by its front doors. A house with a sturdy door, secured by an alarm system or an intimidating lock, doesn’t end up on the burglar’s target list. Upgrade the locks on your doors to the latest technology to leave a strong impression.

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2. Survey your house from inside out to scout out weaknesses

Whether it’s a dodgy back door, a misaligned window in your parent’s room or the easily accessible balcony of your kid’s room, identify signs of weakness in your home and fix them. Any sign of neglect can give burglars the idea that the house can be easily robbed because of lax internal security.

3. Think like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone

You don’t need to plant intricate booby traps like the ones in the Home Alone movies, but try to stay one step ahead of thieves. Keep your car keys on your bed-stand in the night so that you can activate the car alarm in case of unwanted visitors. When out on a vacation, convince the burglars that the house is not empty by using smart light bulbs that can be remotely controlled and switched on at night. Make sure that your newspapers don’t pile up in front of the main-door (a clear indication that the house is empty).

4. Protect your home from the outside

Collaborate with your neighbours to increase the lighting around your house and on the street – a well-lit neighbourhood makes it difficult for burglars to get-away, deterring them from targeting the area. Make sure that the police verification of your hired help is done and that he/she is trustworthy.

While many of us take home security for granted, it’s important to be proactive to eliminate even the slight chance of a robbery. As the above videos show, robbers come up with ingenious ways to break in to homes. So, take their advice and invest in a good set of locks to protect your doors. Godrej Locks offer a range of innovative locks that are un-pickable and un-duplicable. To secure your house, see here.

The article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Locks and not by the Scroll editorial team.