Jacques Prévert
From reluctant author to screenwriter as myth
in Screenwriters in French cinema
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Jacques Prévert (1900–77) is perhaps the best known of all French screenwriters. Poet, songwriter, surrealist, creator of collages and animator of the Groupe Octobre, the best-known agit-prop theatre troupe of the 1930s, this anti-conformist figure was also the inventor of many of the most memorable characters and lines of 1930s and 1940s French cinema. His public image is based not only on prominent billing and an ability to sell movies, but also on an intertextual persona encompassing his prolific and wide-ranging artistic output, personal life, connections to places, and to cultural and political movements and figures of the twentieth century: Surrealism, the Groupe Octobre and the Left, Poetic Realism, Miró, Picasso. This chapter examines the Prévert ‘myth’, from his beginnings in cinema, to key partnerships, including with Marcel Carné, to consider the notion of collaborative creativity. Prévert’s extensive output and the thematic and stylistic coherence across his œuvre are evidence of his authorial creativity, but a close look at his screenwriting practices and outputs shows that this creativity was driven not by individual inspiration but by collaborative exchange.

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