Legendary French producer Mag Bodard, who worked with iconic directors Jacques Demy, Agnès Varda, Robert Bresson, Jean-Luc Godard, Maurice Pialat, Alain Resnais and Claude Miller, has died at the age of 103-years-old.
Bodard, whose heyday was in the 1960s and 70s, got her first producer credit in 1962 on Norbert Carbonnaux’s comedy The Dance, featuring Françoise Dorléac in her first starring role opposite Jean-Pierre Cassel.
The crew featured production designer Jacques Saulnier, who would go on to work closely with Resnais, composer Guy Béart and prolific cinematographer of the era Pierre Petit.
It was Jacques Demy’s 1964 classic The Umbrellas of Cherbourg – only her second production - that would put Bodard on the map and set her on the road to becoming a lynchpin of France’s vibrant cinema scene of the late-1960s to early-1970s.
During this period, she would produce some 30 films including Agnes Varda’s 1965 Berlinale Silver Bear winner Le Bonheur, Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar and A Gentle Women, Jean-Luc Godard’s Two Or Three Things I Know About Her… and La Chinoise, Alain Resnais’s Je t’aime, je t’aimeand André Delvaux’s Un Soir, Un Train.
Bodard would also continue to work with Demy on his classic films, Les Demoiselles de Rochefort and Once Upon A Time (Peau d’ane).
She is also credited with fostering Claude Miller as a talent, producing his 1976 debut feature-length film The Best Way To Walk, which was one of her last cinema credits.
Towards the end of the 1970s, she moved in to producing series and films for television, working in particular with Nina Companeez.
In 2005, filmmaker, writer and former Godard muse Anne Wiazemsky – who appeared in two of Bodard’s productions, Au Hasard Balthazarand La Chinoise, made a documentary about the pioneering producer.
Interviews with filmmakers and stars who had worked with her over the years painted a picture of a producer who never sold out and was on the side of the artists.
Born Marguerite Perato in the northern Italian city of Turin in 1916, Bodard embarked on a career in journalism before turning to film producing.
She worked as a correspondent for women’s magazine Elle in southeast Asia in the late 1950s (then the French colony of Indochina), where she met her husband the foreign correspondent, write and regional expert Lucien Bodard.
On her return to France, Bodard embarked on an affair with TV producer and press baron Pierre Lazareff.
Bodard had hoped that Lazareff would appoint her as the producer of a popular magazine programme of the time, “Cinq Colonnes à la Une”, but when he failed to do so, she decided the only option was to open her own production company.
Their relationship was never made official but Lazareff was a supportive figure in the backdrop and was even an uncredited producer on The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg.
The resulting company Parc Films ran from 1963 to 1972. When Lazareff died at the age of 65-years-old in 1972, Bodard dissolved the company and went on to produce under the banner of Ciné Mag Bodard.
The French cinema world paid tribute to Bodard, who represents a fast disappearing chapter in the France’s cinema history, as news of her death was announced.
“Varda, Demy, Deville, Bresson, Godard, Miller, Companeez Doniol-Valcroze, and how many others. It was her, again her, and always her,” tweeted former Cannes Film Festival chief Gilles Jacob. “Mag Bodard, the queen of French producers, she had a tiny frame and steely kindness and was 103-years-old. Bodard and Lazareff loved her. Respect!”