Cécile Decugis

1934 – 2017

After making two short films, Cécile Decugis became the assistant editor to Marie-Josèphe Yoyotte on Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. She then edited Godard’s Breathless and Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player (co-edited with Claudine Bouché), putting her in the same company as Agnès Guillemot, who also edited films for both directors. In 1960 she was arrested for renting an apartment to National Liberation Front militants* and spent two years in La Roquette prison. Decugis became the main editor for Éric Rohmer in 1969 and edited all his films until 1983, including My Night at Maud’s, Claire’s Knee (co-edited by Christine Lecouvette), Chloe in the Afternoon and Pauline at the Beach. She mentored Mary Stephen, who edited later Rohmer films. Decugis has thirty editing credits. In 2011, at age 77, she reworked a 1957 documentary film about Algerian refugees in Tunisia and rereleased it as Bread Distribution.

*The NLF supported the Algerian war of independence from France.

“Truffaut rarely came into the cutting room because he did not like it very much, whereas you could not imagine a film of Godard’s being edited without him being present. Rohmer was there all the time because he did not like you to work a scene or even a shot without him being present…
When we went to the first screening [of Shoot the Piano Player], Truffaut was very happy. It did not change because there were not many ways to cut it. I hate the term “first cut” because you should always be cutting to make it work. I do not think you should be doing bad cutting. After this “first cut” of course you will make some modifications. In New Wave films the cutting style was not planned in advance. They had a concept of what the style would be and they worked from a script, but they did not know in advance exactly where the cuts would be made. They would have been against being so pre-planned. This is not to say that we were going into the cutting room to find and create something new. The concept of editing was part of the whole film like the style of the shoot and the acting. The editing does not exist in isolation. Sometimes in the cutting room you discover an innovation or you put right problems with the cut. However, in general what happens in the cutting room is a reflection of the film.”

Credit page for My Night at Maud’s

“They [Truffaut and Godard] were against conformity in French cinema. What we cut had to be as alive as possible, appearing spontaneous rather than worked out. Although often, that which appears most natural can require the most reflection. Truffaut was not so much interested in editing, rather he was interested in the idea of the film in general. He would return from a screening and say, “That particular scene is too long, you need to shorten it.” He was fantastic with the overview of the film, but he got bored working with the detail. Godard on the other hand was incredible with cutting. For him cinema defined itself by editing, for Godard cinema is editing.”
—Two excerpts from an interview with Decugis in “Editing and Post-Production Screencraft” by Declan McGrath. The full interview can be found in the Appendix.


Agnès Guillemot

1931 – 2005

Agnès Guillemot was renowned for her collaboration with the Nouvelle Vague directors, having worked on numerous films with both Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut.
She edited sixteen films for Godard, beginning with Une femme est une femme, followed by Contempt, Alphaville, Bande à part , Masculin Féminin, Vivre Sa Vie, Weekend, etc. In some cases, she was the sole editor; on others, she worked either with Françoise Collin, Lila Lakshmanan, Dahlia Ezove, Lila Herman, Marguerite Renoir, or Delphine Desfons.
During that same period, Guillemot edited four films for Truffaut, including L’enfant sauvage/The Wild Child and Baisers volés/Stolen Kisses.
In the late 1970’s she edited five films for Jean-Charles Tacchella, including Cousin cousine and Il y a longtemps que je t’aime.
In the 1990’s she was the editor of three films for Catherine Breillat (Sale comme un ange/Dirty Like an Angel, Romance and Parfait amour!/Perfect Love.)
Guillemot also edited films for several other women directors, including Nicole Garcia, Catherine Corsini, Francesca Comencini and Paula Delsol.

“Editing has one marvelous thing—you are alone with the material and you listen. I use many metaphors, metaphors you use when talking about painters and sculptors. They look at a landscape, a stone; the stone inspires them to do this or that. Editing is the same. The material is given by somebody else, but I listen to it afresh. I do not try to make it mine, I try to produce what it can do. The object is inside—it must be made to come out. It is exactly this—I listen, I look a long time with all my being and I extract what the director wants.”
—Agnès Guillemot interviewed in “Fine Cuts: The Art of European Film Editing” by Richard Crittenden. The full interview can be found in the Appendix.



Marie-Josèphe Yoyotte

1929 – 2017

Marie-Josèphe Yoyotte’s father was from Martinique, her mother was French. She was born and raised in France, and worked primarily in that country, but maintained a close relationship with her roots in Martinique.
Yoyotte was the first black woman editor in French cinema, with seventy-four editing credits, including for Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, Jean Cocteau’s The Testament of Orpheus, and three Euzhan Palcy films (Sugar Cane Alley (aka Black Shack Alley), Rues Cases Nègres and Siméon.)
Yoyotte also edited four films for Jean Rouch: La pyramide humaine, Dionysos, Portrait de Raymond Depardon and Moi, un noir (co-edited by Catherine Dourgnan). More recently she edited Microcosmos and Winged Migration, for which she won César Awards. She won her third César for Police Python 357.

Note: You can read more about the seventeen women editors who collaborated with Jean Rouch here.

“All films are unique in the editing. A film is first of all a dream…The final construction happens in the editing. I’m truly touched by all the people who want to bear witness, because it’s the job of the editor to assist those who want to have their voice heard. There is no rule in editing. There is a taste for storytelling, a taste for collaboration with someone’s dreams.”
Décès de la Martiniquaise Marie-Josèphe Yoyotte, monteuse talentueuse de cinema” by Cécile Baquey. The entire interview (in French) can be found in the Appendix.