Tuesday 25 July 2017

Vale Cécile Décugis - David Hare's English translation of Mary Stephen's Tribute

Mary Stephen
I was wrong about the interest in the tribute in French by Mary Stephen about her friend and fellow film editor Cécile Décugis. There have already been hundreds of page views of the post, no doubt assisted by Adrian Martin’s kind words and a link on his Facebook page.

Now serious cinephile David Hare has gone to the trouble of translating Mary’s wonderful memoir into English. Here it is and thanks David.

The young Cecile Decugis
Completely bowled over to hear of Cecile’s passing – last week I never would have thought it even possible.

I had begun to do editing for Eric Rohmer with Cecile who always maintained great gentleness with me, despite Eric’s strong remonstrations: “she’s making the other crew all cry, aren’t you scared of her?”

Last January on a whim I pulled up in my car where she lived, on the way back to my own place in Sevres, and we spent an afternoon together, while freezing outside in temperature, but completely warm in friendship, on the island of Seguin where she had often filmed over the years.

If Marie-Josette Yoyotte is gone, into the black screen of complete oblivion, the death of Cécile Décugis has passed in total silence. 

When Rohmer suggested I become his assistant on La Femme de l’Aviateur, (so I could earn a little dough and stay in France), he later asked me if I would accept the post of assistant, after having already made my first film. When I knew that Cecile had worked on A Bout de Souffle, which is such a mythical work for cinephiles all over the world, I told Eric I would have been happy to sweep the floors for Cecile.

Then followed years of friendship, much of it at a distance. She never made me cry, on the contrary she helped me get over youthful tears whenever there was a matter of heartbreak or slight at perceived injustices to me, as a young Chinese woman fresh from Canada.  A trip in her Renault 2CV to go out for couscous in the 15th Arrondissement... such careful attentiveness (which might surprise those who didn’t know her), a quite unlikely friendship perhaps which I regret to say I didn’t always acknowledge,  so I thought, when I returned to France in May.

That day together in January in winter she wanted to keep me longer, she brought me into the house, she gave me a DVD of her film about the demolition of the Renault plant on the island of Seguin. Earlier she had asked me for my opinion about her new film about her father, a short but emotional piece.  I was very moved by this film that she was struggling to finish with all kinds of galleys, editing, format mixing... at the time it was incredible for me and my children to see this woman at 86 or 87 keeping the faith as a filmmaker, and being able to carry on with her work almost to the end. I would have liked to be able to say a last farewell...
Never postpone a telephone call you could make today until tomorrow....

Cecile Decugis and film-maker Jackie Reynal

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