Friday, December 28, 2007

Writing For Kinski: Gerard Brach

Some of Nastassja’s best films from the eighties were the most visually stunning of the period. Films like CAT PEOPLE, ONE FROM THE HEART and MOON IN THE GUTTER helped set a new eye popping standard for the ways films could look. They also all came under fire from critics who claimed that the stylistic strengths of the film outweighed the narrative substance. With MARIA’S LOVERS, Nastassja got a chance to work on one of her most fully developed stories and scripts, so a tribute to one of her most important screenwriters seems in order.
Any fan of Roman Polanski will immediately recognize the name of Gerard Brach. The legendary director will always be connected to the late screenwriter as the late man penned so many of his films. The list of films that Brach wrote for Polanski is extraordinary. They include REPULSION (1965), CUL DE SAC (1966), THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967), WHAT? (1972), THE TENANT (1976), TESS (1980), PIRATES (1985), FRANTIC (1988), and BITTER MOON (1992). It is perhaps fitting that it would be the screenwriter for TESS that would deliver another one of Nastassja’s most resonate and haunting scripts for her, and Brach’s work on MARIA’S LOVERS is incredibly strong and noteworthy.
Brach was born in the summer of 1927 in France. A voracious reader growing up, Brach became interested in both writing and film as a young man. He began submitting French scripts in the early part of the sixties and his first paying job came as the dialogue writer on Jean Leon’s DO YOU LIKE WOMEN in 1964. Soon after he met up with a young Polish director named Roman Polanski, who had just scored a major critical hit with the powerful KNIFE IN THE WATER (1962). Polanksi liked Brach (he recalled they were immediately ‘inseparable’ in his essential autobiography ROMAN) and brought him on board to write his segment for an upcoming anthology film known as THE BEAUTIFUL SWINDLERS (1964). This would set off one of the most fruitful cinematic collaborations in film history.

Polanski wasn’t the only famed director that Brach delivered his beautifully realized scripts for though. Claude Berri collaborated with him soon after REPULSION on his award winning CLAUDE in 1967, and the two would end up working together several times throughout their careers. Other famed directors that sought out Brach were Michelangelo Antonioni, Marco Ferreri, and Dario Argento.
In 1970 Brach tried his hand at directing for the first time with THE HOUSE, a film that had a limited success. A year later he would try again for a final time with a more acclaimed work entitled THE BOAT ON THE GRASS starring the beautiful Truffaut muse Claude Jade. The film would garner Brach a Golden Palm nomination at Cannes and is at least notable as one of the only scripts Roman Polanski ever worked on for another director.

For MARIA’S LOVERS, Brach collaborated with the films director Andrei Knochalovsky mainly on crafting the script. Three American writers, Paul Zindel, Floyd Byars and Marjorie David, were also brought in to help with the more American specific aspects of the film. The screenplay would turn out to be one of the most beautiful Brach ever lent a hand to, and the character of Maria one of the most perfectly rendered.
After MARIA’S LOVERS Brach continued to work fairly prolifically. The final film he scripted that was released in his lifetime was Jan Kounen’s BLUEBERRY (RENEGADE) in 2004. Brach would tragically pass away in the fall of 2006 after a brave fight with Lung Cancer. Jean-Jacques Annaud filmed his final script, HIS MAJESTY MINOR, this past year to some acclaim in Europe.
Gerard Brach left behind an amazing legacy of films that will be celebrated for as long as people are watching movies. His work on MARIA’S LOVERS is an important part of that great legacy.

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