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Prévert the magician

mardi 11 avril 2017

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  • Jacques Prévert à Tourettes-sur-Loup, Willy Ronis, Charenton-le-Pont, Médiathèque de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine
    Jacques Prévert at Tourettes-sur-Loup, Willy Ronis, Charenton-le-Pont, Médiathèque de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine
    (C) Ministère de la Culture – Médiathèque du Patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Willy Ronis

2017 will see a wide range of initiatives paying tribute to Prévert the magician to mark 40 anniversary of the death of this poet of many varied talents (4 February 1900-11 April 1977).

In its 19th year, the Printemps des Poètes is a definitive cultural event and will be distributing his texts, celebrating his inventive, corrosive and playful spirit: "Poetry is everywhere, just as God is nowhere".

Starting in April, we will be discovering his abundant personality by visiting Jacques' home, his final residence in Omonville-la-Petite. A new temporary exhibition entitled "Jacques Prévert, portrait of an artist" will look back at the poet's artistic career.

In addition, "Paris-Prévert" by Danièle Gasiglia-Laster, recently published by Editions Gallimard, is richly illustrated with archival documents and photographs that reveal the extent to which Prévert loved Paris, his chosen city, the permanent source of inspiration for his poems, songs and films. The capital also provided him with his greatest artistic encounters (Yves Tanguy, Alberto Giacometti, André Breton, Robert Desnos and Pablo Picasso to name but a few).

It must be said that creating a portrait of Prévert is a considerable challenge give how many strings the artist had to his bow: poet, playwright, scriptwriter and lyricist.

"Vous je ne vous regarde pas
Ma vie non plus ne vous regarde pas
J’aime ce que j’aime et cela seul
Me regarde et me voit
J’aime ceux que j’aime je les regarde
Ils me donnent droit.
(La Pluie et le beau temps 1956)


Let us not forget that even in primary school, we recited his poems (Le Cancre, Page d’écriture Pour faire le portrait d’un oiseau...) from the Paroles collection that launched him as our most popular poet in 1946. His own childhood was spent with a gentle and loving mother and a nonconformist and original father, and throughout his life Prévert sought to evoke and share the magic of childhood with his readers.

"Children have everything except what we take away from them." (Spectacle 1951)

Recalling the love songs (Orange, Les feuilles mortes, Je suis comme je suis, Barbara…) that you always hear, the voices that sang them and made them sublime, such as Juliette Gréco, the icon of Saint Germain des Prés, Yves Montand, Serge Reggiani, Marcel Mouloudji and Edith Piaf, the girl from the street.

Remembering the Masterpieces of cinema of the years 1937-1945 for which Jacques Prévert wrote the screenplays and scripts, such as Les Enfants du Paradis (1945), Quai des Brumes, Le Jour se Lève, Les Visiteurs du Soir, Les Portes de la Nuit, L’Affaire est dans le Sac.

Lines that were transcended by these talented actors:

Arletty Garance's cheeky: "Je ne suis pas belle… Je suis vivante… c’est tout ! "
Les Enfants du Paradis by Marcel Carné (1945)

The charm of Jean Gabin and Michèle Morgan: "T’as d'beaux yeux, tu sais Embrasse-moi"
Quai des Brumes by Marcel Carné (1938)

Louis Jouvet's phlegmatic: " Moi, j'ai dit bizarre, comme c’est bizarre"
Drôle de drame (1937)

Remembering that, from childhood, Prévert was profoundly affected by social injustice and would accompany his father when visiting the "good" and the "bad poor". Between 1932 and 1936, he joined the amateur acting group Octobre, to write and act, combining theatre with politics, creating a new form of subversive theatre, to support the working classes in their revolt.

"Un ouvrier c'est comme un vieux pneu,
Quand y'en a un qui crève
On l'entend même pas crever.
Extract from a pamphlet in support of the Citroën workers' strike of 1933.


Realising that his anticlerical, anti-war and anarchist spirit is fully evident in his writings, in his collages and his very active participation in surrealism. At 54 Rue du château near Montparnasse, that bohemian and creative centre, he invented the term "exquisite corpse" that would become the literary game of the surrealists.

Remembering his highly distinctive, unmistakable voice, that gravelly voice that chanted the truths of the present without concessions, the portraits of Prévert shot by Brassaï and Willy Ronis that always showed him with a cigarette in his mouth and an interior gaze, his nostalgia for his childhood perhaps...

"My life is neither before nor after it is inside"

A determined, generous man, so real, simple and loyal in his friendship (the Prévert gang), Prévert the magician is familiar to us all and remains in our collective memory, alive for eternity. Our selection of photographs demonstrates this.