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Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir

Directed by Max Cacopardo
Interviewed by Madeleine Gobeil and Claude Lanzmann
Photographed by Michel Brault

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In this rare documentary, Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) and Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986), two of the most influential and controversial writers and thinkers of the 20th century, intimately discuss their work, their lives, and the role of public intellectuals in modern society. They were interviewed for this 1967 French Canadian TV program by Canadian journalist Madeleine Gobeil and Les Temps Modernes editor Claude Lanzmann (who later produced Shoah, the epic documentary on the Holocaust).

Filmed in his Montparnasse apartment, Sartre discusses his reasons for refusing the Nobel Prize in Literature, his response to public criticism, the reasons for his opposition to the Vietnam War, his role as Chairman of the Bertrand Russell War Crimes Tribunal, and the seeming contradiction between such political involvements and his then-current literary project on Flaubert.

Simone de Beauvoir, displays travel souvenirs that line her museum-like apartment, then takes us onto the Paris streets to show us her birthplace, childhood school, previous apartments and cafes where she and Sartre met with friends and colleagues. She discusses her three volumes of memoirs as well as such influential books as The Second Sex, and passionately expounds on her ongoing commitment to women's liberation.

Sartre and Beauvoir, lifelong companions, are jointly questioned about their work habits and the nature of their relationship. This is not a fawning interview session, however, as both Gobeil and Lanzmann pose unusually provocative questions. Sartre is confronted with charges that he is "the greatest thinker of the 19th century," while Beauvoir is asked whether she feels "incomplete" as a woman because she never had a child.

JEAN-PAUL SARTRE AND SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR also offers rare glimpses into their private lives, including a discussion with Sartre's 85-year-old mother and his adopted daughter.

Asked why they have finally agreed to such an intimate look at their lives, Beauvoir explains that they are doing so "out of friendship for our readers. Our gift to them. This is a time capsule." Now available for the first time on video and DVD, the "time capsule" can at last be opened.

"A very moving insight into the lives of two personalities who have certainly captivated the imagination of the public."—Yolanda Patterson, Ph.D., President, Simone de Beauvoir Society

"An intimate portrait of the comples domestic relationship between two writers. A powerful and useful inheritance."—Debra Levin, New York University, for Women and Performance

"Recommended!"—Educational Media Reviews Online

"Fascinating! What personalities, what clear presentation, what power of thought and contemplation! What a fantastic documentary! Exquisite filmmaking!"—Philippe Reliquet, Director of Franco-Portugese Institute of Lisbon

"Whether they're discussing their respective works, the role of writers and writing, the paradox of the intellectual in society (Sartre) or the atavisms of the female condition (de Beauvoir), whether they're talking to each other or others are talking about them, this film highlights one or two simple truths that have survived over the decades, as well as the controversies that the couple alternately provoked or endured: they were two writers side by side, who loved each other, who were comrades-in-arms, but how were also each other's best friends. Their lives were at one with the century and their youth."—La Presse

2006 Society for Cinema & Media Studies Film Festival

60 minutes / Color
French / English subtitles
Release: 2005
Copyright: 1967

For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
Biographies, Black & White, Cultural Studies, France, French Culture, French History, History (World), Literature, Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology, Western Europe, Women's Studies

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