Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 19
November 15, 1967
François Ozon born

Born in Paris in 1967, a year before the city was rocked by protests and revolution, François Ozon would continue that revolutionary spirit in a very different way. Interested in film from childhood, he was a voracious consumer of movies, a love that armed him well for getting his masters degree in cinema before moving on to FEMIS, France’s elite film school (where he came under the tutelage of Eric Rohmer). Immensely productive, Ozon made 14 short films, screened at festivals around the world, before two of his shorts––A Summer Dress and See the Sea––gained international attention. Ozon has gone on to be one of France’s talented and enigmatic auteurs. Shifting cinematic styles from film to film, he mix and matches elements of mystery (8 WomenSwimming Pool), musicals (8 WomenWater Drops on Burning Rocks), and melodrama (Criminal LoversUnder the Sand) and cinematic influences (Rohmer, Fassbinder, Buñuel, Hitchcock, Sirk). Like the figures of the French New Wave who were popular at the time of his birth, Ozon has re-fashioned the elements of classical cinema to fit his unique vision––fashionable, unexpected, and a little bit queer.


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December 19, 1977
Jacques Tourneur dies

On this day in 1977, the film world lost of the most creative directors of the Golden Age of Hollywood, when Jacques Tourneur passed away in Bergerac, a town in the south west of France.

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December 19, 1979
Being There, Sellers' Last Chance

According to director Hal Ashby, the editing of Being There was only finally finished at around 4 a.m. on the first day of its limited Oscar qualifying run, 29 years ago today, and Ashby himself delivered the film to the theatre by hand. The painstaking approach Ashby took with the film, however, translated into rapturous reviews and turned Being There into a financial as well as critical success. The movie was a long-gestating project that Ashby and the film’s star, Peter Sellers, had been planning since 1973 when the Pink Panther star had first shared with Ashby his love of Jerzy Kosinski’s novel about a idiot savant gardener who unintentionally becomes a political heavyweight. Sellers, who was initially seen as too broad a comic actor to play this subtle a role, excelled as Chauncey Gardiner (aka Chance the gardener), the childlike man whose simplistic comments are misinterpreted as ingenious political rhetoric, and garnered the very best reviews of his career and a Best Actor Oscar nod in the process. The film proved the most fitting of swan songs as Sellers died of a heart attack just six months after the film’s release. Being There has since become a classic, not least because of its incisive and gently scornful satire of the American political establishment: during the 1980 election, candidates Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter both tried to paint their opponent as being “like Chauncey Gardiner,” and over the course of the presidency of George W. Bush, numerous comparisons were made between the intelligence of commander in chief and Sellers’ simple-minded comic hero.

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