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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

French Documentary by Laurent Chalumeau

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Elmore on French TV

The French understand Elmore Leonard in ways that are just not typical of most people.  To be sure, Elmore is no Jerry Lewis in France, (thankfully) but he is celebrated.  That’s why I was open to the idea of a French documentary for Canal Plus, a premium French cable channel, written by French writer, Laurent Chalumeau.  I knew it would not contain a single liter of the usual boring crap you find in North American video “biographies.”

Laurent Chalumeau might bristle if you called him the “The French Elmore Leonard” but not if you called him Elmore’s number one fan in France.  Laurent has, by his own admission, been “ripping off Elmore” since 1984 when he first became aware of him, reading Stephen King’s review of Glitz in The New York Times, then everything by Elmore he could get his hands on.  He compared his Elmore Leonard epiphany to the conversion of St. Paul on the Road to Damascus.

Laurent Chalumeau began his writing career as a rock writer for the French equivalent of Rolling Stone.  Since then, he has written several novels and screenplays and has pretty much “been there, done that” for most of his personal obsessions with the exception of one: to meet Elmore Leonard, the man who has been such an influence on his work for the past twenty five years.

Laurent came to Detroit in late May, hired a Detroit film crew and set about fulfilling his dream.  He shot a couple of lengthy interviews with Elmore as well as an interview with yours truly, Gregg Sutter.  He filmed a joint appearance by Elmore and Peter Leonard at an event at Border’s Books in Birmingham for Peter’s debut novel, Quiver.  Later Elmore would say of Laurent’s interview: “his questions were hard!”  But a good time was had by all, despite the extra brain work.

I don’t know when we can expect to see Laurent’s documentary on Elmore Leonard in France or anywhere else,  but I predict that it will be the best damn documentary to come along since the BBC production, Elmore Leonard’s Criminal Records in 1991.

 

 

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