Renowned French writer and director Jean-François Laguionie has made a name for himself in animation with his unique universe that poetically addresses the themes of travel, identity and the passage of time.
Updated on 30/06/2020
The son of a wine representative and a housewife, Jean-François Laguionie was born in 1939 in Besançon. He began studying at the National Higher College of Theatre Arts and Techniques (known as l'école de la rue Blanche) to specialise in theatre design. While he wasn't yet destined for film, the young man wrote shows for shadow puppets. When Paul Grimault (The King and the Mockingbird) offered the use of his studio and camera to shoot his first short film using paper puppets, it was a revelation: La Demoiselle et le Violoncelliste (The Lady and the Cellist) was immediately rewarded at the prestigious Annecy Festival.
He continued his solitary work in animation and received a Palme d'Or and a César for La Traversée de l'Atlantique à la rame (Rowing Across the Atlantic). Following this success, he left Paris and founded his own production studio, La Fabrique, with his friends, where he directed his feature films, from Gwen, Le Livre de Sable (Gwen, Or The Book of Sand) to Voyage du prince (The Prince’s Voyage), via Louise en hiver (Louise by the Shore).
With nine shorts and six feature films in 50 years, Jean-François Laguionie has pushed the boundaries of animation in France with his puppet characters. While Paul Grimault's legacy is to portray the sea, journeys or the time to question man's place in the world, his naive and poetic work has many levels of interpretation, and appeals to a wide audience. Whether using watercolour, cut paper, oil paint, ink or animation on glass and celluloid, the director favours craftsmanship over industry.
Beginning in the 1970s with Plage privée (Private Beach) and Hélène ou le malentendu (Hélène or the Misunderstanding), he tried out a new method combining animation and real-life shots. Drawing inspiration from his childhood memories, the discreet but influential film maker continued his career from his studio in the Cévennes, enjoying the most success with Louise en hiver (2017).
Each of Jean-François Laguionie's films is an event at international animation festivals. A regular guest at the Annecy Festival, where he was discovered and revealed to the public in 1963, the director was awarded an Honorary Cristal for his entire career by the festival in 2019.
With multiple awards in France, from the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival to a César, the octogenarian director was also honoured at the Ottawa Film Festival for La Traversée de l'Atlantique à la rame and nominated for the Lumières Award for Louise en hiver. In 1999, he was the first director to receive the Albín-Brunovský Medal of Honour at the Bratislava Biennial.
La Demoiselle et le Violoncelliste wins the Grand Prix at the Annecy Festival.
Release of La Traversée de l'Atlantique à la rame, awarded a Short Film Palme d'Or at Cannes and a César.
Foundation of La Fabrique, production studio.
First feature film: Gwen le livre de sable.
Honorary Cristal at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival for the director's entire career.
As part of the Animated Cinema Festival and with the support of the Institut français, Jean-François Laguionie is taking part in the Grand Festival of Animated Film in Moscow from 20th to 29th October 2019. There he is presenting his latest film, The Prince's Journey (out in France on 4th December).
The Institut français in Moscow is also presenting restored versions of 7 of his short films, The Imaginary Worlds of Jean-François Laguionie.
Find out more about the Animated Cinema Festival
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