“Montand est à nous”, on France 4: the “singing prole” all in chiaroscuro


“Since my adolescence, the figure of Montand has accompanied my life. » If there were only one unconditional fan of Yves Montand left, it would be this other Yves, Jeuland, a documentary filmmaker known and recognized for his talent for unearthing images, undressing icons, revealing the dark side of myths .

We knew him more distanced, more caustic – see his documentary on Georges Frêche, his week immersed at the Elysée or his Extravagant Monsieur Piccoli … But Yves Jeuland assumes, and comments in the first person on this “affective inventory of blows shouts, crushes and applause.”

After Charlie Chaplin, the genius of freedom , here he is, alongside his accomplice Vincent Josse, in the footsteps of the “singing proletarian”. In the wake of young Ivo Livi, this “little Italian immigrant who arrived in Marseille at the age of 2 and a half”. Steeped in ambition but also in anxiety, the beginner Montand kept, at the age of 19, a diary in which “he pasted and collected all the articles reporting his exploits”. It took him two years to recover from his breakup with Edith Piaf: “I don’t think we have enough of real love stories like that,” the actor confided years later.

“Autodidact”

Followed by the meeting with Simone Signoret, with Jacques Prévert ( Les Feuilles Mortes… ), the companionship then the break with the Communist Party – the filming of L’Aveu , by Costa-Gavras, in 1970, on the tragedy of the Czech Artur London, condemned during the Prague trials in 1952 to deny himself in the name of an ideology that he never ceased to serve, caused Ivo Livi to remain angry for more than twenty years with his brother, then a member of the party and leader of the CGT. “I cannot conceive of this work without being in harmony with the things that are happening around me,” Montand said.

His path then crossed that of Claude Sautet, “just as decisive as Costa-Gavras” , according to Yves Jeuland. It will be César et Rosalie , in 1972, with Romy Schneider, Vincent, François, Paul… and the others , with two other Italians, Piccoli and Reggiani.

Archive images (visual and sound), carefully staged, finally tell us about the aging actor who recognizes, when he was offered the role of Papet by Claude Berri in Jean de Florette (1986), having was initially offended: “I didn’t want to become an old man. »

Young or old, Yves Montand embodied the 20th century, as an “autodidact who tries to become number 1 in his game,” says the director of the documentary. With this true-false panegyric all in chiaroscuro, which was screened in the official Cannes Classics competition at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, for the actor’s centenary, the man who did not want to appear like an old gentleman can draw his Famous hats off to Yves Jeuland: he has earned his stripes as a great gentleman.

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