André Delvaux, the father of modern Belgian cinema
The life of the man who would become the father of modern Belgian cinema and magical realism was punctuated by his different passions; he came to cinema through the piano, and he divided his life between teaching cinema, directing and his love for music. We take a look back at the life of this unusual director who left an indelible mark on our cinema.
Born in 1926 in Heverlee, André Delvaux was interested in Flemish literature and studied Germanic philology and law at ULB. He learned piano at the Conservatoire royal de Bruxelles at the same time. It was his love for this instrument that led him into the arms of the cinema, playing the piano to accompany silent films shown at the Cinémathèque royale de Belgique. After becoming a language teacher at the Athénée de Schaerbeek, he founded a film class and made his debut as a director with his students.
Everything began to accelerate in the 60s, when he started to make documentaries for Belgian television (Jean Rouch, Federico Fellini, etc.). He then moved on to fiction with Le Temps des écoliers in 1962, the year he co-founded the Institut national supérieur des arts du spectacle (INSAS) in Brussels. In 1967, he made his first feature film De man die zijn haar kort liet knippen (The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short), adapted from the novel by Johan Daisne. Although Belgian cinema did not wait for Delvaux, this adaptation would really bring him into the modern world. He then defined magical realism, bordering on the fantastic, combining reality, dreams, memory and imagination in an everyday reality. Un soir un train (One Night... A Train) with Yves Montand (1968) was adapted from the same author but in French, as the director's work varied between the two languages. In both languages, Delvaux generally gives us a familiar setting with a narrative and images reminiscent of museum paintings, which he liked to visit.
He continued to draw inspiration from literature throughout his work: Rendez-vous à Bray (Rendezvous at Bray) – Louis Delluc Prize 1971, Benvenuta (1984) and L'Œuvre au noir (The Abyss) - Cannes Film Festival 1988 - are adaptations that would remain major works of Belgian cinema. But recognition came in 1972, when he represented Belgium at the Cannes Film Festival with Belle.
In making these films, Delvaux seduced the general public with his arthouse cinema, and was the first to export it. The father of modern Belgian cinema died in 2002 of a heart attack while attending the World Meeting of the Arts in Valencia.
© Photo JMV / Cinergie