|Alexander Trauner was born in Hungary. After completing his secondary education, he went on study at the Fine Art School in Budapest. During his time, there, he heard much talk, from teachers and friends alike, of Paris- then buzzing with new ideas in every branch of the arts. Already predisposed by his intense dislike for the Horty regime and the vicious anti-Semitism prevalent under it to quit his native country, Trauner decided to strike new roots in France, where he arrived in 1929.
In the Paris of the twenties Trauner soon felt at home. Encouraged by an intellectual climate in which the freedom and fertility of the imagination were seen as supreme values, he became one of a number of artists in the French capital who were no longer content to confine their work to a single medium and sought expression in the other disciplines, as various as ballet decor, tapestry, photography, fashion design, architecture...
For Trauner it was to be the cinema.
|His break into the film world came when he was hired as assistant to the designer Lazare Meerson, with whom he gained valuable experience working on, among other films, René Clair's LE MILLION and QUATORZE JUILLET and Jacques Feyder's LA KERMESSE HEROÏQUE.
Then, in 1932, he met poet and scriptwriter Jacques Prévert. It was to be the beginning of a deep, instant and unbroken friendship. And with it was launched what in retrospect might justly be called "the Great French Motion-Picture Show", with Jacques Prévert writing the scripts, Alexandre Trauner designing, Marcel Carné, Pierre Prévert, the Allégret Brothers and Jean Grémillon directing, and Maurice Jaubert and Joseph Kosma composing music.
For twenty years their talents sparked off each other in a profusion of ideas, words and images; and to the end-results- the films that got made -Trauner's designs brought the inimitable style and atmosphere that have characterised all his work. It was the Golden Age of French cinema - 1937: DRÔLE DE DRAME (Jacques Prévert/Marcel Carné); 1938 : HÔTEL DU NORD (Henri Jeanson/Marcel Carné); 1940 : REMORQUES (Jacques Prévert/Jean Grémillon)...
After 1940, come the Occupation, Trauner went underground and continued to work, designing Grémillon's LUMIERE D'ETE and Carné's LES VISITEURS DU SOIR, LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS, both scripted by Prévert.
It was not long before his exceptional talent found recognition on the international scene. Offers of works began to arrive from the most prestigious filmmakers in America, and his decision to accept marked a new departure for Trauner.
The next ten years or more he was to spend, mainly in Hollywood, working in turn with JULES DASSIN, STANLEY DONEN, JOHN FRANKENHEIMER, HOWARD HAWKS, GENE KELLY, ANATOLE LITVAK, DAVID LEAN, MARTIN RITT, PETER USTINOV, ORSON WELLES, BILLY WILDER ( Oscar for the Apartment), WILLIAM WYLER, FRED ZINNEMANN.
With THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING for JOHN HUSTON in 1974 his American period came to an end.
Since his return to return to Europe Trauner has gone on to make films with directors such as JOSEPH LOSEY
( MONSIEUR KLEIN in 1976 won a " César " award , DON GIOVANI, 1979 won a "César" award, THE TROUT 1982 ).
BERTRAND TAVERNIER ( COUP DE TORCHON, 1981, 'ROUND MIDNIGHT 1985.
CLAUDE BERRI, ( TCHAO PANTIN 1983 ).
LUC BESSON ( SUBWAY in 1985 another "César" Winner ).
ARTHUR JOFFÉ, ( HAREM, 1985 ).
The Originality of Trauner's achievement lies in his power to invest the trompe-l'oeil magickry of film design with all the rigor and discipline of the true painter; and in this he has no equal.