September 27, 2014
By the mid-1950s, the sexist credit line “script girl” gave way to “continuity director” or “script supervisor” on U.S. movies, but French filmmakers retained it, in English, for another decade. Under any name, the job involves noting changes from script to shooting, keeping track of the day’s footage, and guarding against small, distracting inconsistencies between different takes of the same scene. It isn’t work from which household names are made, but if Jean-Paul Belmondo or Jean-Pierre Léaud hold their Gauloises in the same hand from shot to shot, cinephiles can thank SUZANNE SCHIFFMAN (Suzanne Klochendler, 1929–2001), the Sorbonne-trained art historian who quietly made the job her own on dozens of nouvelle vague classics by Jean Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Jacques Rivette, and Jacques Demy. (Distinguishing between intended and accidental discontinuities on Godard’s Une femme est une femme [A Woman is a Woman, 1961], where Anna Karina flips an omelet in one shot and catches it some time later, can’t have been easy.) By Truffaut’s L’Enfant sauvage (The Wild Child, 1970), Schiffman had graduated to assistant director, and remained his acknowledged co-auteur on the bulk of his later work. In their autobiographical La nuit américaine (1973), Nathalie Baye plays a younger, more callow Schiffman, invisible yet indispensible, alongside Léaud’s put-upon director; The Last Metro (1980) draws on both her childhood in occupied France and her behind-the-scenes role, in the person of a Jewish director hidden under the stage by a Parisian theater company. Her sole theatrical feature under her own name came after Truffaut’s death: the well-received Le moine et la sorciére (Sorceress, 1987), a tale of medieval religious heresy in which the most fanatical character has something of Schiffman’s own reticence: “I turned the daughter into a mute.”
READ MORE about members of the Postmodernist Generation (1924-33).