Viking Eggeling

1880 (Lund, Sweden) – 1925 (Berlin)

Modigliani, befriended with Arp in Paris, painted Eggeling’s portrait. Janco (with Richter, Tzara and Arp) was a Zürich Dada friend and colleague. Richter and Eggeling — they had been introduced to one another by Eggeling’s close friend Tzara, in 1918 — worked intensively together for three years, their skills mutually complementary, bringing (in Richter’s words) “time and motion to painting.” Van Doesburg, intrigued by their ideas, travelled from the Netherlands to Berlin to see Richter and Eggeling’s work, and wrote about it in ‘de Stijl’.

Stefan Themerson

1910 (Płock, Poland) – 1988 (London)

Themerson characteristically claimed to be a verb, not a noun. Franciszka was his partner in everything, Lutosławski writing music for one of their films. Queneau, a fellow-member of the College of Pataphysics (Transcendent Satrap to Themerson’s Commander), gave him two stories to publish. He found the elderly Pol-Dives (with a gramophone) giving slide-shows of his poems in a Paris shed, and met Schwitters in London, staying friends until Schwitters’ death. Lye and Grierson were film-making friends in the U.K., Hausmann a correspondent, while Russell gave him a mathematical formula and co-wrote a book that started as a joke.

Roland Topor

1938 (Paris) – 1997 (Paris)

Herzog, a friend, cast him as a fly-eating secretary in his ‘Nosferatu.’ Arrabal joined him in the so-called anarcho-surrealist movement ‘Panic’ (after the god Pan). Spoerri was a close friend and collaborator — Topor did drawings for his ‘Anecdoted Topography of Chance.’ He designed a sequence for Fellini’s ‘Casanova’, and Calle invited him (and 23 others) to sleep in her bed.

Roland Topor knew…

Pierre Prévert

1906 (Neuilly, France) – 1988 (Joinville-le-Pont)

Prévert and his better-known older brother Jacques worked extensively together, on a number of films. Duhamel also collaborated with the brothers on their first film (and in many other film projects), Ray and Boiffard also being roped in. As well as directing and writing, Prévert played parts in front of the camera – often uncredited – for Vigo, Renoir, Cavalcanti and Buñuel (L’Age d’Or), among others — and appeared in front of and behind the camera for Grimault.

Peter Whitehead

1937 (Liverpool) – 2019 (London)

Studying physics in Cambridge, Whitehead assisted Crick, Perutz and Kendrew. Trocchi helped run a pivotal poetry gig in London that he filmed (Shaffer giving him the money for the film-stock). Brook asked him to film an improvised Living Theatre piece, while Sternberg championed his film about the Rolling Stones. Saint Phalle collaborated on a film about sexual politics (described as disastrous), while Sinclair, suspicious about the reasons Whitehead was able to get away with as much as he did, made a film about the film-maker. Hughes, a friend, sent him a postcard poem about a falcon.

Marguerite Duras

1914 (Gia Dinh, French Indochina, now Vietnam) – 1996 (Paris)

Merleau-Ponty, Ponge, Blanchot, Bataille, Genet, Michaux, Leiris, Vian and Queneau regularly met at Duras’ flat to discuss literature; Bataille and Blanchot were among her lodgers, and Leiris a neighbour. Calder published her work and took her on a pioneering speaking tour of the U.K. with Robbe-Grillet and Sarraute. Foucault was a correspondent. She collaborated closely with Resnais on the making of ‘Hiroshima mon Amour.’ Moreau, a friend, met Lacan with her, and played the part of Duras in one of two films featuring her (Duras playing her own part in the other).

Joris Ivens

1898 (Nijmegen, Netherlands) – 1989 (Paris)

Vertov, Eisenstein and Pudovkin, all personal influences, were invited by Ivens to speak at his Amsterdam film-club. He met Krull while working in Berlin, and Ruttmann — even more influential — soon after. Buñuel got papers for him to shoot an anti-fascist film in Spain, with Hemingway and Dos Passos. Pudovkin invited him to a lecture-tour in the USSR: Eisenstein put him up. Storck, Eisler, Prévert, Marker and Thomson all collaborated with him; Chaplin, Flaherty, Capra, Dovzhenko and Losey were among his friends. Robeson and he engaged in a long-distance collaboration while both were black-listed by the U.S.

Joris Ivens knew…

Jeanne Moreau

1928 (Paris) – 2017 (Paris)

Moreau sacked the agent who tried to stop her working with Malle (the film made her a star). She gave Truffaut the money to finish Jules et Jim, and chased the producer-butcher of a Losey film brandishing a knife. Welles thought her the best actress in the world. Duras (whose part she once acted), Genet and Miller were among her writer friends. Malle, Truffaut and Richardson were lovers, Friedkin briefly her husband. Other directors she worked with included Buñuel, Godard, Antonioni, Wenders, Fassbinder and Kazan. Nin, a strong friend, wanted her to play her own part in a film that wasn’t made.

Jeanne Moreau knew…

Jean Cocteau

1889 (Maisons-Lafitte, France) – 1963 (Milly-la-Forêt)

Cocteau’s ballet for Diaghilev had music from Satie and designs from Picasso, who disparaged him as “the tail of my comet.” Honegger, a close friend, wrote music for his adaptation of ‘Antigone’, Chanel doing the costumes. He collaborated with Stravinsky and Richter, offered Miller a part in a film (becoming close friends), turned Trocchi on to opiates, made Radiguet his protégé, and associated with Milhaud, Auric, Taillefer, Durey and Poulenc as well as Honegger (the charge is that he wanted to lead a movement). Piaf, a beloved friend for whom he wrote a play, poignantly died just hours before him.