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mheu, Historical Museum of the Urban Environment

Hiver 54, l'Abbé Pierre

Denis Amar

© Epithète films

View this work in Les Chiffonniers exhibition

The work

Screenplay and adaptation by Marie Devort and Denis Amar. Dialogue by Marie Devort.

With Lambert Wilson, Claudia Cardinale, Robert Hirsch, Bernie Bonvoisin and Philippe Leroy-Beaulieu.

The winter of 1954, -15 degrees, Abbé Pierre, a former deputy, former Resistance fighter and founder of the Chiffonniers Bâtisseurs d'Emmaüs...

Denis Amar, as the film's subheading indicates, wants us to share in the hard struggle, wants to show us the limitless tenacity of this secular abbot, to have his project of building "emergency homes" for the most destitute in the middle of a terrible winter adopted by the French Senate. Tenacity was what he needed in spades, in the face of politicians with no interest in the people, safe in the warmth of their snug offices, smoking cigars, thinking only of giving "absolute priority to the means of production"... A very contemporary struggle, indeed. And persistent Abbé Pierre certainly was, but he was also highly intelligent and, as a brilliant forerunner to "charity business", he knew how to use the levers of the media of the time: radio and film news.

Denis Amar based his discourse on endless transitions between one world and the other: from those who have everything to those who have nothing, from those "who allow themselves the luxury of not seeing" to those who have lost any shred of hope. The film carries us into anger, indignation, and into rejection "of an illegal law" and it achieves its end, just as the Abbott does, for the politicians were forced to give in! Does that mean everything was put right? The scene showing the erecting of tents, the distribution of meals to the starving, the death from cold of a woman and of a baby plunge us into contemporary reality and what has become a recurrent theme in today's media! And that is of course the main message of the film.

The artist

A French film director and scriptwriter, born on June 10, 1946. He followed a traditional career path, becoming from 1966 assistant to film directors as renowned as Jean Delannoy, Philippe De Broca, Yves Robert, René Clément, Georges Stevens and Robert Wise. He continued his training at the French school of publicity and short films.

Of his filmography, including seven feature-length films, the following are particularly remembered: Asphalte (1981), then L'Addition, a powerful thriller from 1984, with Richard Berry, Richard Bohringer and Victoria Abril. In 1989 he filmed Hiver 54, L'Abbé Pierre, for which he also wrote the screenplay and which was a great public success. He tackled another thriller in 1997, with Saraka Bô. In parallel with his cinematographic career, Denis Amar made many distinguished television programs. All his work bears the stamp of an honest artist, a meticulous director of actors and a consummate professional in the tradition of classical French cinema.