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French pic acad taps Verneuil

Vet filmmaker sees pix as 'art for the average man'

PARIS — Veteran filmmaker Henri Verneuil lashed out at French intellectuals who look down on him for making thrillers and spy movies and ignoring the New Wave genre, during his acceptance speech Wednesday at the French Academy of Fine Arts, which elected him a member.

The popular 80-year-old came down hard on what he said was the turn French cinema has taken.

Strong sentiments

“During my 50 years of making films, I have seen the birth of a form of cinema which often sacrifices instinct and lyricism to narcissistic and cerebral satisfaction. In the absence of talent, some feel they have to be ‘intelligent,’ ” Verneuil told his fellow academicians.

Verneuil has made 36 movies, including “The Sicilian Clan” (1969) with two of France’s most-loved actors, Jean Gabin and Alain Delon.

He has also worked with Yves Montand on “I Come, I Care” (1979) and Jean-Paul Belmondo, “A Monkey in Winter” (1962). Robert Alda, Henry Fonda and Yul Brynner were all in Verneuil’s cold war spy movie, “The Serpent” (1972).

In an interview with French daily Le Figaro, Verneuil summed up his filmmaking.

“I was always able to fill the house. I think film is first and foremost an art for the average man,” he said.

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