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Gerard Lauzier, 1932-2008
posted December 15, 2008
 

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Gerard Lauzier, the 1993 winner of the Grand Prix at Angouleme, passed away on Saturday, December 6 in Paris after a long illness. He was 76 years old.

Lauzier was an important talent in the 1970s whose career in comics was actually relatively brief. He also worked as a playwright, screenwriter and a film director. If I had to compare him to an American cartoonist, it would be to Jules Feiffer. Both created works of tremendous sophistication about life, sex, and morals; both featured acidic takes on contemporary society; and both had success writing for live theatre and film as well as in comics.

imageLauzier emerged into comics from the world of commercial illustration with the publication of Lili Fatale, a political/erotic/adventure comic for adults that was serialized in Pilote. At the same time, he was producing Tranches de vie ("Slices of Life") for that same magazine, the series for which he would become best known.

Nonetheless, within about six years his career as a cartoonist was winding down. By the early-1980s Lauzier was largely done with comics. In 1980 he wrote his first play, Le Garcon d'appartement (directed by the well-known French actor Daniel Auteuil) and his book La course du rat was adapted to the screen by Francois Leterrier as Je vais craquer. The next year he wrote the screenplay for Psi, a farce.

imageIn 1982 he became a filmmaker, writing and directing the comedy T'empeches tout le monde de dormer. Over the next two decades he would direct six films in all. The best known of these, in North America, would be Mon pere, ce heros (1991) starring Gerard Depardieu, which was remade in the United States under the name My Father, The Hero three years later, with Depardieu reprising his role.

In 1992, Lauzier returned to comics, publishing his last major work: Portrait de l'artiste. The next year he was awarded the Grand Prize at the Angouleme Festival. In 1999 he wrote the screenplay for Asterix et Obelix contre Cesar, the first of the contemporary live-action Asterix films starring Depardieu and Christian Clavier as the titular heroes.

For me personally, Lauzier only became an important cartoonist recently. I was far too young to be reading his material in Pilote in the 1970s, and because he left comics so soon, he was not the type of artist whose work you'd be constantly reminded of. My appreciation for him likely stems from the exhibition at Angouleme a few years ago that drew connections between the Pilote generation of the 1970s and the Poisson Pilote generation of the 2000s, where his comics were placed in dialogue with those of Riad Sattouf. Reading his pages there, I was struck by the fact that I had missed out on a major talent, and I picked up his Tranches de vie work.

Lauzier did not have a particularly long career in comics, but the fact that he was awarded the Grand Prize at Angouleme is an indicator of how well respected he was within the field. He is probably best known for the sophistication of his writing, but his drawings were really no less accomplished. If any of his work has been translated into English, I'm unaware of it.