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Raoul Coutard

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Raoul Coutard

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Raoul Coutard (born 16 September 1924, Paris) is a French cinematographer. He is most often associated with the nouvelle vague period and particularly for his work with director Jean-Luc Godard. Coutard also shot films for New Wave director François Truffaut as well as Jacques Demy, a contemporary frequently associated with the movement.

He shot over 75 films during a career that lasted nearly half a century.

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[edit] Biography

Coutard originally planned to study chemistry, but switched to photography because of the cost of tuition.[1] In 1945, Coutard was sent to participate in the French Indochina War; he lived in Vietnam for the next 11 years, working as a war photographer, eventually becoming a freelancer for Paris Match and Look. In 1956, he was approached to shoot a film by Pierre Schoendoerffer, La Passe du Diable. Coutard had never used a movie camera before, and reportedly agreed to the job because of a misunderstanding (he believed he was being hired to shoot production stills of the film).

[edit] Collaboration with Godard

Coutard’s first work collaboration with Jean-Luc Godard was Godard’s first feature, À bout de souffle, shot in 1959. He was reportedly “imposed” on Godard by producer Georges de Beauregard; the director had already settled on a different cinematographer.[1]

Coutard photographed nearly all of Godard’s work in the nouvelle vague era (1959 – 1967), with the exception of Masculin, féminin; their last work during this period was Le weekend (1967), which marked the end of Godard’s work as a ‘mainstream’ filmmaker. The two did not work together again until Passion; their final collaboration was Godard’s next feature, Prénom Carmen.

During the nouvelle vague period, Coutard’s work with Godard fell into two categories: black and white films, which were all shot full frame, and color films, which were all shot in widescreen. The black and white films, which were mostly made on lower budgets, are notable for their use of hand-held camera work and natural lighting, which lends them an unpolished quality. This “loose” style of shooting is what is most associated with the Godard-Coutard collaboration, because it does not appear in Godard’s collaborations with any other cinematographers. Though many of the color films, especially early ones like Une Femme est une femme (1961), feature handheld shooting, Godard’s increased use of color also saw an increased focus on immobile and tracking shots.

[edit] Post-nouvelle vague Career

After photographing some of the last films made during the nouvelle vague era – Le weekend for Godard and Truffaut’s The Bride Wore Black – Coutard worked on Costa-GavrasAcademy Award-winning Z (1969). [Coutard and Truffaut fought heavily over the cinematography of The Bride Wore Black, reported TCM host Robert Osborne after the cable network’s 2009 showing of the picture.]

In 1970, Coutard wrote and directed his first feature film, Hoa Binh, for which he won the Prix Jean Vigo and an award at the Cannes Film Festival. The film was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Coutard shot two more features over the course of the next fifteen years: La Légion saute sur Kolwezi[2] in 1980 and S.A.S. à San Salvador in 1983. Coutard’s cinematographer on all of his features was Georges Liron, who had been his frequent camera operator[3] during his collaboration with Godard and with whom he’d served as co-cinematographer on the Irish documentary Rocky Road to Dublin (1967).

As a cinematographer, Coutard was less active in 1970s than the 1960s. When he reunited with Godard in 1982, Coutard had shot only 7 films in a the last decade, with 5 of them in 1972-73.[4] After the two Godard collaborations, he began working more frequently again.

During the 1990s, Coutard began working with director Philippe Garrel; his most recent work is Garrell’s Sauvage Innocence, which was released 2001.

[edit] Selected filmography (as cinematographer)

[edit] Filmography (as director)

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