“Denys de La Patellière, who has died aged 92, was of the generation of French film directors described with ironic contempt by François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard and other critics turned Nouvelle Vague directors as representing le cinéma de papa,” begins Ronald Bergan in the Guardian. “But De La Patellière had several huge box-office hits in France in the 1950s and 60s, featuring some of the biggest internationally known French stars of the period such as Lino Ventura, Danielle Darrieux, Michèle Mercier, Pierre Fresnay, Bernard Blier and, above all, Jean Gabin, whom he directed in six films.”
Though De La Patellière died over a week ago, on Sunday, July 21, Bergan’s very fine piece in the Guardian seems to be the only full obituary out there in English at the moment. A brief report from the AFP is running along the wires, calling Un taxi pour Tobrouk (Taxi for Tobruk, 1961), with Ventura and Hardy Krüger, “his masterpiece” and noting that Du rififi à Paname (The Upper Hand, 1966), with Gabin and George Raft, and La fabuleuse aventure de Marco Polo (Marco the Magnificent, 1965), “which he co-directed with a stellar cast including Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif and Orson Welles,” were also hits.
I haven’t seen a single one of De La Patellière’s films, but I’m tickled by the premise of Le Tatoué (The Tattooed One, 1968), with Louis de Funès and Gabin, who plays, as Bergan puts it, “an irascible, impoverished aristocrat who has an original Modigliani tattooed on his back.”