Gallic producer Serge Silberman, known for his work with helmers Jean-Pierre Melville, Luis Bunuel and Akira Kurosawa, died Tuesday in Paris. He was 86.
French culture Minister Jean-Jacques Aillagon paid homage to the “great producer” who “will leave his mark on the history of modern cinema.”
Director of the Centre National de la Cinematographie, David Kesslar, hailed Silberman as “a man whose humanity contributed to the understanding of important auteurs and exemplary works of cinema.”
Known as something of a maverick producer, Silberman produced most of Bunuel’s late masterpieces, including “The Milky Way,” which Silberman decided in only one afternoon to produce, despite the somewhat extravagant and politically touchy nature of the project.
Jean-Claude Carriere, who co-wrote “the Milky Way” and worked in tandem with Silberman and Bunuel on most of their collaborations, said at the time he thought Silberman had gone mad.
“Luis and I thought he was crazy,” Carriere said in an interview with Le Film Francais a few years ago. “We even told him jokingly, ‘Serge, come on, we know a nice, quiet little place in the country, with friends there who can take care of you.’ It’s that kind of craziness that’s missing in French producers today.”
Silberman also produced Kurosawa’s “Ran”, considered by the helmer as his best work, when no one in Japan would get behind the director who was known to be a bit of a spendthrift.
Born in Lodz, now in Poland, Silberman spent his youth between Lodz, Milan and Liege, Belgium. He survived the Nazi concentration camps during World War II, and arrived in Paris in 1945.
He began his career with production outfit Victoria Films and distrib Play-Art Films (the two eventually merged), where he produced Melville’s classic gangster pic “Bob Le Flambeur” in 1955, followed by Jacques Becker’s last film, “The Hole,” in 1960 which was an instant fave with the young New Wave helmers.
In 1963 Silberman met Bunuel and the two agreed to do “Diary of a Chambermaid”, beginning a life-long friendship. Silberman once said that “it was only with Bunuel that I had this symbiosis, this complicity.”
Silberman started his own production outfit, Greenwich, in 1966, and produced more than 15 films under the label, including Jean Herman’s “Adieu l’Ami”, Jean-Jacques Beineix’s “Diva” and Nagisa Oshima’s “Max, Mon Amour.”
He won an honorary Cesar award in 1988 recognizing lifetime achivement.