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Jean-Pierre Coursodon (1935-2020)

On the last day of 2020, the French film historian and critic Jean-Pierre Coursodon has passed away at the age of 85. He has been writing for film magazines since 1957. Coursodon lived in the United States – mostly New York City – since 1967, where he was the American correspondent for Positif since 1988, but, as Adrian Martin wrote in his tribute, “he abhorred all chapels, sects and cults, flitting in and out of them as he wished, remaining fiercely independent.”

Coursodon was the co-editor and main contributor (with 66 of the 118 essays) of the notable 1983 two-volume, English-language work American Directors. Another classic, co-written with Bertrand Tavernier, is 50 ans de cinéma Américain (1991, revised in 1995, Editions Nathan), considered by many as a bible on the subject. The book has not yet been made available in English, although the entry on Steven Spielberg has been translated by Ted Fendt. At the end of this year, the long announced, updated re-issue of the book will be published by Institute Lumière and Actes Sud as 100 ans de cinéma Américain in honor of Coursodon.

Coursodon was a specialist on American cinema and (silent) comedy. He wrote the reference work in French on Buster Keaton (1973) and, together with Brad Stevens and Dan Sallitt, participated in a wide-ranging 2006 email-round-table on Keaton organized by Craig Keller. He’s the author of a major 1975 essay on Jerry Lewis in Film Comment, “Jerry Lewis’s Films: No Laughing Matter?” As a professional translator, Coursodon was responsible for the French editions of Michael Powell’s autobiography, the memoirs of André de Toth and biographies of Roberto Rossellini, Howard Hawks and John Ford.