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French presidency praises contribution of prominent French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Mocky

Le réalisateur français Jean-Pierre Mocky décédé à l'âge de 90 ans.
Le réalisateur français Jean-Pierre Mocky décédé à l'âge de 90 ans. Martin BUREAU / AFP

French film director Jean-Pierre Mocky bowed out on Thursday at the age of 90 after a long and colourful career.The French presidency paid homage to a character who contributed to the diversity of French cinema in the 20th Century.


"Jean-Pierre Mocky, in his 91st year, died at home in Paris, surrounded by family and friends," his daughter Olivia Mokiejewski and son Stanislas Nordey told AFP on Thursday.

The Elysées Palace was quick to pay tribute to a monument of French cinema.

"The eternally provocative and prolific Jean-Pierre Mocky led us to believe his youthfulness would be preserved for ever," said a presidential statement.

"That youthful spirit is in his irreverent view, in his thirst for cinema. It is also in his expressions of anger, indignation and revolt."

Mocky was born Jean-Paul Mokiejewski, and as his father was a Polish Jew, he tried to escape being arrested and deported.

He sought work as a film extra and actor with the film directors who were active under the Nazi Occupation of France, Marcel Carné, Claude Autant-Lara and Jean Cocteau.

Escaping the Nazis

Born in the southern city of nice, there is some doubt as to Mocky's exact date of birth.

In his autobiography Mocky wrote that he altered his birth certificate to say he was born in 1933 and not 1929. This meant he was able to take a boat alone bound for Algeria to escape the Nazis.

To further his career, he left France for Italy where Michelangelo Antonioni appreciated his good looks and gave him a role in the 1953 I Vinti.

Italian cinema of the 50s was to play a major part in Mocky's life, as he worked with Fellini and Visconti.

Mocky's own directorial debut came in 1959 and the title of his film, Les Drageurs (The Flirts) which starred Charles Aznavour and Anouk Aimée, made popular a slang-word still used today.

A class of his own

He went on to make around 80 films, but defied easy classification as a director.

He toyed with farce and comedies were often burlesque, and infused a new, freer language and handling of satirical plots.

But Mocky also made thrillers such as Un linceul n'a pas de poches (A shroud has no pockets) in 1974 or the disturbing Noir comme le Souvenir ( Black as Memory) with Jane Birkin.

The last Mocky film is not yet out. Tous Flics ! (Everyone's a Cop!) is in post-production and due to release in 2020.

A French icon

Not only for the chunk of work he has left behind, but also for his personality, Mocky's contribution to French culture will not be easily forgotten.

"His films spared no-one and he persisted in criticising society's flaws and aberrations," said Jack Lang, Former Culture Minister during François Mitterrand's presidency in the 1980s.

"His filmography is a mirror of who he was, caustic, anti-conformist and far removed from clichés."

France's Current Minister of Culture, Franck Riester, a generation away, said he had his own style, his rages and most of all his unique, indefinable, provocative and poetic cinema.

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