Artistically, the meeting between Jean-Pierre Bacri and Agnès Jaoui marked French cinema in more ways than one. One year to the day after the actor’s death, a look back at this successful collaboration.
The Jaoui-Bacri duo is one of the most outstanding of French cinema of the 90s and 2000s. They brought to the writing of plays and films a new, fresh and realistic tone with which the public immediately identified, while by pronouncing on the bottom, the love of the other. A look back at a flourishing collaboration.
It all started in 1987, when Jean-Michel Ribes staged The birthday, third play by Harold Pinter, starring Jean-Pierre Bacri in the main role, but also Jacques Boudet, Dominique Blanchar, Roland Blanche, François Toumarkine and Agnès Jaoui. The latter is 23 years old, Bacri is 36, and their lives will change.
In the documentary Bacri, like a family resemblance, available at this address, Ribes comments on this period:
After two, three weeks, they were madly in love with each other.
In 1991, they began their collaboration with Kitchen and Dependencies, a play which they successfully performed at the Théâtre La Bruyère, before transforming it into a feature film directed by Philippe Muyl, which was released on April 7, 1993 on screens. . The piece collects 4 Molière awards including that of “Best Authors”.
This is in particular why the filmmaker Alain Resnais (on the initiative of Pierre Arditi) calls on them to adapt the play Intimate Exchanges that he wants to wear in the cinema under the title Smoking/No Smoking. Following the success of their joint work, he called on them again in 1997 for On connait la chanson, a film including popular songs in its plot, and which will still be a great success in theaters.
On this good momentum, the duo tries their hand at directing, and the distribution is done naturally, as Bacri* recounts:
Agnès is hyperactive, she claims it, and I’m lazy and I claim it too. So when it comes to directing our own films, we don’t think long.
She therefore ensures the production and he remains in the shadows. By his own admission, it was following his meeting with the one who became his collaborator and companion that he began to write more seriously:
What happened is that I stopped writing bullshit. Before, I did it out of interest, it was just me. When I met Agnès, a miracle happened both in my life and in my writing.
This is confirmed by director Olivier Doran, who analyzes: “Agnès served as a catalyst so that Jean-Pierre’s qualities of observation, analysis and understanding could take precedence over the skills of winnowing and “I’m funny and I have a sense of repartee”.
Their films, like their plays, study the relationships between people and the prejudices each may have towards the other even before knowing them. The duo’s chiseled dialogues ring both true and exude an acidity that makes them hard-hitting and unstoppable. And the public is not mistaken.
Their artistic collaboration continues until 2018 even though personally they have been separated since 2012. Jean-Pierre Bacri dies on January 18, 2021 at the age of 69.
Our interview with the Jaoui-Bacri duo on the occasion of Place Publique, their latest joint work:
* All quotes in this article are from the documentary “Bacri, comme un air de famille”.