Jean-Claude Carrière was born on September 17 1931 at Colombières-sur-Orb, a tiny village in the Languedoc region of southern France, the bookish only child of peasant farmers who, he recalled, “thought of me as the owner of a small territory to which they had no means of access”. In 1945 his parents moved near Paris to open a cafe.
Educated at the École normale supérieure de Saint-Cloud, he became captivated by cinema aged 13 when a godfather took him to see The Great Dictator (1940), Charlie Chaplin’s parody of Hitler and Mussolini, which left a huge impression on the young boy. Bunuel, he recalled had been one of Chaplin’s “gagmen” on the film, thinking up the idea of the opening sequence when Chaplin is chased round the trenches by a giant unexploded shell.
Carrière’s collaboration with Jacques Tati was interrupted by five years’ military service in the French army in Algeria during the civil war.
He continued to work into old age, among other things co-writing Jonathan Glazer’s Birth (2004), in which a 10-year-old boy claims to be the reincarnation of a woman’s dead husband, and working as script consultant on Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon (2009) which chronicles a series of mysterious events in a town leading up to the outbreak of the First World War; he advised Haneke to prune explanatory material to intensify its enigmatic quality.
In 2010 he made a cameo appearance in Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy. One of his final film credits was Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate (2018), about the final months of Vincent Van Gogh.
Carrière also served as head of Femis, a school created in 1986 by the French government to teach students film arts and crafts. In 2014 he was awarded an honorary Oscar for his life’s work.