|French producer, distributor, independent exhibitor, but most of all enthusiastic cinéphile with exceptional intuition and insatiable curiosity.
Pierre Braunberger was born on July 29, 1905 into a family of doctors, At age seven, he saw an episode of Louis Feuillade's Fantomas and decided he was going to make a career in movies. At the age of I5, during a trip to Germany, he directed his first film, Francfort-on-Main.
In 1922 he got his first job as a clerk at the London offices of Brockliss Ltd, the cinema equipment supplier. The following year, he went to New York where he worked a few weeks at Fox. Then, passing himself off as a production manager, he got himself hired by Ferdinand H. Adams, then managed to meet Irving Thalberg. He worked as the producer’s secretary for a year during which time he learned the ropes.
Returning to France, Braunberger made the acquaintance of Jean Renoir with whom he would collaborate on La Fille de l’eau, Nana, and Tire au flanc.
Eager to acquire real independence, he created "Néo-Film", a production company. Then, seeing the importance of the surrealist movement, he founded "Studio-Films" , to distribute and sell films of international avant-garde.
In 1928, he created “Les Productions Pierre Braunberger” to produce the first French talkie, Robert Florey’s La Route est belle, which due to lack of sound facilities in Paris had to be shot in a London studio.
In 1929, he took over the Pantheon cinema which he would program till the end of his life. He renovated the house, installed 450 seats and had it equipped with the Western Electric system. At a time when subtitles had not yet been invented, he was the first to show films in their original language.
In 1930, he went into a partnership with Roger Richebé to acquire the Billancourt studios and produce films under the company name “Établissements Braunberger-Richebé”. Their productions included Robert Florey’s Le Noir et le Blanc (first film to co-star Raimu and Fernandel), Jean Renoir’s La Chienne (The bitch) and Marc Allégret’s Fanny.
Following their separation in 1933, Braunberger continued to manage the Billancourt studios on his own, renaming them “Paris-Studio-Cinéma”. He resumed production activities under the "Société du Cinéma du Panthéon", Jean Renoir’s Une Partie de campagne (A Day in the Country), Marcel L’Herbier’s Forfaiture).
Arrested during the war, he was interned for a year at the Drancy camp, then joined the Resistance with the aid of André Malraux.
At the Liberation, he was information officer with the provisional Liberation government. He resumed his film activities, created “Les Films de la Pléiade”, and transformed a former Gestapo locale into a cinema studio, the “Studio Lhomond”.
With the film editor, Myriam, he made the 1951 cult film, Bullfight, about his other passion.
Braunberger was as among the first to realize that, as costs were skyrocketing, a certain style of production was ending. The use of highly sensitive film stock made it possible to shoot in natural locations with little light. He decided to cater to young directors who were shortly to make up the New Wave: Agnès Varda, Jacques Rivette, Alain Resnais, Chris Marker, François Reichenbach, Maurice Pialat, Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. At first a producer of short films, he ended up in the epicentre of this new movement in 1959 with Jacques Doniol-Valcroze’s L'Eau à la bouche and François Truffaut’s Tirez sur le pianiste (Shoot the Piano Player). During the 1960s, he produced Godard’s Vivre sa vie (My Life to Live), Resnais’ Muriel (Muriel or The Time of Return) and Lelouch (Une fille et des fusils).
In addition to his production activities, he contributed to new film funding legislation and the setting up of the production advances system which aided the maturing of a new form of cinema.
Constantly looking for new talent and new experiences, he produced the films of Gérard Pirès Elle court, elle court la banlieue (The Suburbs are Everywhere), ethnographic documentarian Jean Rouch, experimental filmmakers and such later directors as Gérald Calderon, Walerian Borowczyk and Gérard Krawczyk.
He was equally enthusiastic about foreign directors, and was in the vanguard of distributors to make their work available (Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti, Roman Polanski). His only regret was that he lacked the financial means to produce the later films of directors he had discovered. He died on November 16, 1990.