Philippe de Broca

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Philippe Claude Alex de Broca de Ferrussac

Birthdate: (71)
Birthplace: Paris, Paris, Île-de-France, France
Death: November 26, 2004 (71)
Neuilly-sur-Seine, France (cancer)
Immediate Family:

Son of Yvon de Broca de Ferrussac and Suzanne Barrault
Husband of <private> de Broca de Ferrussac (Rojan)
Ex-husband of Margot Kidder

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Immediate Family

About Philippe de Broca

Director Philippe de Broca's films were generally light-hearted comedies or exotic adventures, and his leading man of choice in a number of films was Jean-Paul Belmondo. Le Bossu (1997) starring Daniel Auteuil is a classic example of his swashbuckling adventure stories set against a historical background.

He was born Philippe Claude Alex de Broca de Ferrussac on March 15, 1933 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, the grandson of a painter and the son of a photographer. After graduating from the Paris Technical School of Photography and Cinematography, he did his national service in Algeria, where he worked for the French army's film section for three years. He once described how any shots he took of French soldiers committing violent acts were immediately censored, "so I avoided filming anything troubling". This would almost seem to be his motto in his carefree films, except for The King Of Hearts (1966), which was coloured by his Algerian experiences.

The latter, which became a cult classic in the US, was a parable in which asylum inmates seem to be sane during the first world war. It told of how a young British soldier (Alan Bates), stranded in a small French village, encounters these patients, who decide to crown him king.

On returning to civilian life, de Broca, after working as an assistant on Claude Chabrol's first three films, and appearing briefly in Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (1959), embarked on his own films. However, unlike his New Wave colleagues, it was obvious from the very beginning with Les Jeux De L'Amour (Playing At Love, 1960) that his aim was primarily to entertain. His was a cheerful, non-tragic nature, more interested in good than evil. "I see life in its comic aspect," De Broca commented.

His debut feature was dominated by a running, jumping and gesticulating Cassel as a feckless young painter who will not give in to his live-in girlfriend's desire for marriage and a child. De Broca continued with his frenzied vivacity, charm and eccentricity with Le Farceur (The Joker, 1960), in which Cassel is a dedicated philanderer searching for the perfect woman whom he thinks he has found in a beautiful and bored married woman (Anouk Aimée). The sweet-and-sour boudoir comedy L'Amant De Cinq Jours (The Five-Day Lover, 1961), has Cassel as a bachelor, Jean Seberg, a wife, and François Perrier, her husband. "Love's a bubble. When it touches earth, it's over," says Seberg's character, which is also an apt description of the film.

The films with Belmondo were equally frivolous but with bigger budgets and bigger box-office receipts. In fact, these divertissements were among the most popular French films of the time. Cartouche (1961), a snappy swashbuckling lampoon, revived the costume adventure - the sort of film the New Wave directors reacted against - with Belmondo as the lively 18th-century hero who, with Claudia Cardinale, takes over a Paris crime syndicate in order to rob the rich.

That Man From Rio (1964), in De Broca's early frenetic style, was one of the best of the deluge of spy spoofs that followed the success of James Bond. Belmondo is an airline pilot who becomes involved in a wild adventure that takes him from Paris to Rio, and the Amazon, in order to help his archaeologist fiancee (Françoise Dorleac) search for stolen treasure. Up To His Ears (1965), based on a Jules Verne novel, was almost a rerun of the previous hit film with Belmondo as charming and animated as ever in exotic locations, all played at a frenzied pace.

From the 1970s onwards, de Broca's films became less hyperactive, less entertaining and more mainstream. Among his better efforts were Chère Louise (1972), starring Jeanne Moreau as a divorced teacher falling for a man many years her junior, and Dear Inspector (1977), a pleasing odd-couple comedy-thriller with Annie Girardot as a police inspector having an affair with Philippe Noiret, a professor of Greek. But there were few hits between the flops, and he found himself employed directing run-of-the-mill series for TV.

De Broca did smell success once more with Le Bossu (1997), a return to the swashbuckling genre, with Daniel Auteuil turning in an entertaining performance. In contrast, hoping to return to the good old days, he made Amazone (2000), with an ageing Belmondo, but it was a box-office and critical disaster. His last film, Vipère Au Poing (Viper In The Fist), an adaptation of Hervé Bazin's autobiographical novel, opened to acclaim last month (it is still running). It was very unfortunate that illness prevented him from helping to promote the film, although he was said to have relished his last triumph.

He died on November 25, 2004 of cancer at aged 71.

De Broca, who was married three times, once briefly to the Superman actor Margot Kidder, leaves a wife and two children.

Sources: The Guardian, Wikipedia, Biography

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Philippe de Broca's Timeline

March 15, 1933
Paris, Paris, Île-de-France, France
November 26, 2004
Age 71
Neuilly-sur-Seine, France