The Arty Semite

French Jewish Director Jean-Pierre Mocky Mocks On

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share

The French Jewish film director Jean-Pierre Mocky exemplifies the bitterness at the heart of many highly original comedic talents. Delightful comic actors from Bourvil to Michel Serrault enjoyed long, if quirky, professional associations with Mocky, whose career as an actor and director has been as stormy as the best of his films.

Born Jean-Paul Adam Mokiejewski in 1933 to a Polish Jewish family in Nice, Mocky has recently published with Le Cherche Midi Editions in Paris, “Thoughts, Comebacks, and Anecdotes” (“Pensées, répliques et anecdotes”). Even for a director notorious for his bellicose approach to filmmaking, this is a strikingly captious volume.

Mocky explains that as the 1930s wore on, Mokiejewski began to sound “very Jewish, after all,” so the family name was changed. Young Jean-Pierre was sent to Algeria to spend the war in safety, but not before an episode at a French Catholic school during which he was molested by one of the teaching priests. This gave him a permanent loathing of churches, though he adds: “Today, priests have become a minority; I never attack minorities.”

Returning to France after the war, Mocky launched himself into the theatrical world, rubbing elbows with such legendary talents as the French Jewish actor Robert Hirsch. Today Mocky is estranged from the theater, as well as his son Stanilas Nordey, a noted younger stage director. Mocky explains: “I loathe what [Nordey] does in the theater and he loathes what I do in film.”

Mocky has also bitterly feuded with Gilles Jacob, the French Jewish overlord of the Cannes Film Festival, ever since Jacob panned one of his films in 1971. “Thoughts, Comebacks, and Anecdotes” offers equally unforgiving appraisals of the French Jewish film director Zabou Breitman as well as the 2006 gay comedy “The Man of My Life” and Claude Berri’s 2002 film “A Cleaning Lady,” both of which he terms “nondescript.”

Another French Jewish director, Cédric Klapisch, is dismissed for his hit “The Spanish Apartment” which gives the impression, according to Mocky, that “young people today are morons, which isn’t the case.” Mocky does reserve praise for the French Jewish actress Simone Signoret in 1952’s “Casque d’Or” and the comedy director Gérard Oury, born Max-Gérard Tannenbaum. Yet the lasting impression of this printed diatribe is not so much what Mocky likes, as what he detests.

Watch Mocky lash out at journalists during a 2009 café interview:


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Jean-Pierre Mocky

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.