Gérard Lebovici

Gérard Lebovici (25 August 1932 – 5 March 1984) was a French film producer, editor and impresario.

His mother was executed in a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War. While on the verge of embarking on a promising stage career at twenty years of age, Lebovici's father died, leaving him orphaned.

Out of the necessity to ensure a source of income for himself more secure than acting, he followed his father into a menial occupation. But passion for show-business caught up with him and in 1960, he founded a management agency with Michele Meritz through which he represented the interests of Jean-Pierre Cassel. Subsequently during the 1960s, he rapidly rose to prominence in show business by dint of his distinguished business acumen and an intuitive understanding of the film industry.

In 1965, he bought a management agency from Andre Bernheim which included among its clients the French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo. He gradually created an empire in the cinema industry which lasted until 1972, with his creation of Artmédia, the first pan-European agency managing a combination of writers, directors and actors. Clients included Bertrand de Labbey, Jean-Louis Livi and Serge Rousseau (who was to discover a new generation of French stars at the beginning of the 1970s, such as Patrick Dewaere, Coluche, Miou-Miou and Jacques Villeret).

Parallel to his activities in business, Gérard Lebovici acquired a sulfurous reputation through his political associations. Scarcely politicized in his youth, although of mildly Left-wing sympathies, his future wife Floriana Chiampo, as well as the events of May 1968, radicalised him. Lebovici was fascinated by the Paris uprisings and seems to have viewed them as the birth of a true revolution. He is said to have confided to his friend Gérard Guégan the idea of founding a radical publishing house which he intended to be the “Gallimard of the revolution”. This idea materialised in 1969 under the name of Editions Champ Libre.

Champ Libre published a broad range of texts which reflected the ideological confusion of the time, as well as the growing influence of the American counter-culture. The defining moment of Champ Libre's development came in 1971 when Guy Debord submitted "The Society of the Spectacle" for publication.

In 1974, Lebovici decided to move Editions Champ Libre even more towards the fringes of the publishing industry. Debord acquired a growing influence over the choice of publication of certain titles (Clausewitz, Baltasar Gracian, Jorge Manrique, poets of the T'ang Dynasty, Omar Kayyam, but also Jaime Semprun, Jean-Louis Moinet and others) while the marketing policy of the house broke with normal standards: there were no paperback editions of bestsellers, and no contact with the press.

Champ Libre also republished some classic revolutionary tracts as well as writers dissenting from Stalinism (Marx, Bakunin, Landauer, Korsch, Ciliga, Souvarine, George Orwell). Lebovici also continued his work in film, financing three films by Debord of which “Society of the Spectacle” was the first, in 1973.

Ten years later, Lebovici bought the Studio Cujas cinema in central Paris and devoted it exclusively to showing Debord's films. The unlimited friendship between the two men, apparently belied by all lack of similarity besides their respective age, provoked jealousy even among the close associates of Lebovici. In addition to his taste for political circles of the far left, Lebovici had an extreme fascination for the culture of the criminal classes. He adopted the daughter, Sabrina, of France's "public enemy n° 1" at the time, the bank robber Jacques Mesrine, who was killed in 1979 by the French police.

At the beginning of the 1980s, Lebovici envisaged withdrawing from the world of cinema, which he considered himself to have already revolutionised, and devote himself entirely to publishing. However, circumstances were to be unforthcoming: A few days before his death, he dined with his friend Jean-Paul Belmondo to tell him about the re-publication by Champ Libre of Jacques Mesrine's autobiography L'Instinct de Mort ('The Death Instinct'), since republished (December 2006) by éditions Le Chien Rouge, Marseille.

On March 7, 1984 Gérard Lebovici was found shot dead in the front seat of his car in the basement of the Avenue Foch carpark in Paris. There was swift confirmation that he had died on 5 March from four bullets fired from behind into the back of the neck. The assassins have never been caught. His wife Floriana took control of Editions Champ Libre, renaming it Editions Gérard Lebovici and opening a bookshop of the same name in the rue Saint Sulpice, Paris. She died of cancer in February 1990 and the bookshop closed shortly after with the stock transferring to Éditions Ivrea, rue du Sommerard.

Read more about Gérard LeboviciBibliography

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Gérard Lebovici - Bibliography
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