Claire Peplo, film director who jumbled styles, dies at 79

Claire Peplow, a director and screenwriter who loved to merge genres in her films, and who also contributed significantly to some of the films of her husband, famed filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci, died on June 24 in Rome. She was 79 years old.

The cause was cancer, said his assistant, Alessandra Bracaglia.

As a director, Ms Peplo made an instant impression from her first attempt, a comic short About the newlyweds committing a robbery called “Couples and Robbers”, which she wrote with Ernie Ebon; It was nominated for a short-theme Oscar in 1981.

“In this comedy-thriller he demonstrates that in his first film he is a talent to be counted,” Richard Rodd wrote in The Guardian Weekly when the film played at the 1982 Berlin Film Festival. “The actors casting and directing are superb. If someone doesn’t finance their feature film, it will be a great shame.”

Ms. Peplo, however, found financing a conflict, especially since his films challenged easy categorization, and he deliberately paced when a project was set in motion. As a result, his work was limited. Their first feature, “High Season”, was not released until 1987, and there would be only two others, “Hard Magic” In 1995 and “Trumpet of Love” in 2001.

He had a habit of attracting well-known actors to his projects. “High Season,” a comic indictment of gouache tourists, starred Jacqueline Bissett, Irene Papa, and Kenneth Branagh, among others. “Rough Magic” stars Bridget Fonda as a magician’s assistant in Mexico and Russell Crowe as the man hired to track her down.

“Love Wins” Her best-received feature was her role in an 18th-century stage comedy by Pierre de Marivaux and featured a cast that included Mira Sorvino, Ben Kingsley, Fiona Shaw and Rachel Stirling.

It was difficult to pigeonhole in all these films. “High Season” was a commentary on what tourism does to an ancient Greek village and “Midsummer Night’s Dream”-style romantic fantasy. “Rough Magic,” The Independent of Britain said, “thrilles Saturday mornings from serial-style heroic Bunuelian surrealism to light noir, with dashes of Nicholas Ray and Howard Hawks here and there.”

Susan Feldman, professor of art history and film and media studies at the University of the South, “Claire Peplo’s films as director are distinguished by an unusual combination of insane narrative complexity, sophisticated battles of the sexes, picturesque locations, and artistic self-consciousness. ” Carolina School of Visual Art and Design, said by email. “They’re screwball comedies for the art-house set.”

When she was not directing films, Ms Peplo was occasionally writing them. His first film credit was as one of several screenwriters for Michelangelo Antonioni’s film about rebellious American youth, “Zabriskie Point” (1970), although he described his role in the film as “the umpteenth assistant”. reduced his contribution.

“I wasn’t really a writer on this, I was a researcher on this,” she said. (She was useful because she was fluent in English.) She shared screenwriting credits on Mr. Bertolucci’s films “Luna” in 1979 and “Based” in 1998.

While she was directing, however, she usually banned her famous husband from the set.

“He annoys people,” she told The Independent in 1996.

Claire Frances Catherine Peplo was born on October 20, 1941, in Tanga, northeastern Tanzania. His father, William, was a British civil servant who became an art dealer and director of the Lefevre Gallery in London, and his mother, Clotilde (Brewster) Peplo, was an artist.

His early life was a fascinating one: growing up and attending schools in Kenya, London, Italy, and Paris, choosing multiple languages ​​and acquiring a worldly outlook. Living in different cultures, he told The Record of New Jersey in 1997, “You learn to see everything—a historical event, a war, a wedding ceremony, whatever—in so many different ways.”

She met Mr. Antonioni in the late 1960s and worked with him on “Zabriskie Point”. She first met Mr. Bertolucci during a screening of his film “The Spider Stratagem” in 1970 and later met several times in connection with their shared love for Jean-Luc Godard. He served as second assistant director in Mr. Bertolucci’s 1976 class struggle drama “1900”, and they married before the end of the decade.

Ms Peplo said that, conversely, being involved with her husband did not help her obtain financing such as the nuts-and-bolts aspects of her own filmmaking.

“In fact,” she told The Los Angeles Times in 1988, “I realized only recently that many of the problems I faced were related to marrying her. I naively assumed that people didn’t care for that sort of thing and just saw me as my being, but now I see you have a certain jealousy in front of you, ‘he doesn’t need our help – look who he’s married’ .'”

Creatively, though, they complemented each other, she said.

“Over the years Bernardo often asked me to help him with ideas for his films, and I always surprised myself with cinematic, Bertolucci-like ideas,” she said. “He had a kind of Svengali effect on me and was instrumental in helping me come to my own as a filmmaker.”

Mr Bertolucci passed away in 2018. Ms. Peplo, who lived in Rome, is survived by a brother, Mark Peplo, who shared a screenwriting Oscar with Mr. Bertolucci for the 1987 film “The Last Emperor”.

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