"Grangier was the warmest".



When Gabin received a suggestion to shoot a film in the south, he commented, "Once you get past the Loire, it's all adventure...". This happens to be the title of a book of fascinating conversations between François Guérif and Gilles Grangier (1911-1996), to be reissued this month. Guérif reminisces…


What do you recall about these conversations with Gilles Grangier?

I have a very emotional memory of these discussions. I discovered a generous, kind man, who spoke more about others than about himself, with anecdotes about the greats of French cinema. Gilles Grangier was the opposite of bitter. One day, I told him, “The directors of the New Wave were a bit harsh with you, especially Truffaut, who had written that giving a film to Grangier meant wasting it... What do you think of that today?” He answered, "Of course, I was a little angry with them, but for My Wife’s Husband, I shot with Claire Maurier, who had played Jean-Pierre Léaud's mother in The 400 Blows. She was a wonderful woman. She told me that Truffaut was a very good guy. If she said so, it was probably true, and I regret not having met him.”


Was Grangier a modest man?

Definitely. He humorously recounted that during the shooting of Hi-Jack Highway/Gas-oil, a curious person approached, asking, "Ah, are you going to shoot something?” to which Grangier replied, "Yes, the story of a trucker." “And who is directing it?”  "Grangier is", said Gilles, "Ah, it won't be very good", concluded the other... But Grangier was keen on some of his films, and he was ready to get angry: "When people say that I didn't work out my shots, it's not true!” Gilles hated zoom shots and loved traveling. He had been Guitry's assistant on Désiré. He said that frequently, after a good lunch, Guitry would get his feet caught in the rails installed on the set, and would shout, "Who’s the idiot who put a tracking shot on me?” It was Grangier.



Jean Gabin, focused in Hi-Jack Highway/Gas-Oil, 1955


What about his great technical know-how?

Yes, when you see Hi-Jack Highway/Gas-oil again, the frames are magnificent! The great misconception is that it has been often claimed that these people only shot in the studio, when in fact Grangier made three quarters of his films on location. For example, Not Delivered was shot in a rather "grungy" Parisian suburb, completely on location. "But why didn't you shoot more like that?" "They didn't want me for that, I was classified as a comic director..." That's why he was eternally grateful to Gabin, who got him out of it.

Claude Chabrol, whom I knew well, told me, "When I saw that you were doing a book with Grangier, I thought you were kidding around. I like Gilles, but he’s a bit lazy. And then I saw the films again and although I still think that, sometimes, he could have gone out of his way a bit more, I can tell you, there was nobody warmer.” I think that's a very fair assessment.




Paul Meurisse, visionary cop in The Night Affair, 1958


What is your favourite Grangier film?

I love The Night Affair. Gabin had said to him, at the beginning of the shoot, "Don't make me play the gallant gentleman, I'm too old". But it turns out that Gabin was not insensitive to Nadja Tiller's charms, he was even quite infatuated with her, and it's the film where he is the most vulnerable, without a mask, and it was amazing. I had shot a programme with Grangier, Bertrand Tavernier and Alain Corneau. When we spoke enthusiastically about The Night Affair,I turned to Gilles and saw that he was crying...




Interview by Aurélien Ferenczi




passe-la-loirePassé la Loire, c’est l’aventure, by Gilles Grangier, Interviews with François Guérif, Institut Lumière/Actes Sud, 256 pages, 21€. Available at the Premier-Film Bookstore and the festival Village.

National release: October 27, 2021


Categories: Lecture Zen