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I remember a film critic who once compared Robert Altman’s Gosford Park to Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game (Regle du jeu). The critic found each film more or less equal in terms of ambition, craftsmanship and themes, but nevertheless argued that one was clearly superior to the other. To that particular critic, the question was easy to answer — since Altman and Gosford Park displayed a cold-hearted misanthropy compared to the warm and embracing humanism of Renoir, The Rules of the Game won.

Back then, I thought long about this matter. Was it really fair to evaluate things that way? Surely, I knew that film studies and criticism aren’t exactly objective matters, but still: just like that, stating that humanism is a richer and better artistic value than misantropy? Sympathetic, but, well, hmm…

Well, Gérard Lauzier — who regrettetly passed away on december 6th, after a long illness — is one example that challenges this perception pretty strongly. Although I’m not familiar with Lauzier’s films and plays (he quit comics in the mid-eighties), his comics ouevre was dedicated to the ridicule of variuos groups and individuals from all layers of society. He was an expert in pointing out the failings of the advertising industry, the feminist movement, struggling artists, believers in sexual liberation, and on and on… His social satire was sharp, spot-on, and incredibly funny. When reading Souvenirs d’un jeune homme (‘Memoirs of a Young Man’, 1982), it’s almost impossible not to laugh hysterically, all the time — even if it’s sometimes a kind of unpleasant, dark laughter…

His most famous works include the equally hilarious come-back sequel to Souvenirs d’un jeune homme, Portrait de l’artiste (‘Portrait of the Artist’, 1992), as well as Les Sextraordinaires aventures de Zizi et Peter Panpan (‘The Sextra-ordinary Adventures of ‘Dick’ and ‘Regina’, 1974), La Course du rat (‘The Rat Race’, 1978) and the many short stories in Tranches de vie (‘Slices of Life’, 1974). These books are all great, and even though they are clearly marked by events and ideas of the seventies, they’ve aged well. One of the reasons might be the fact that Lauzier was a very stylized craftsman, who drew and colored in an instantly recognizable, almost iconic manner. His illustrations seemed like sketchy ligne-claire, but his colors were strong and vivid.

Lauzier’s comics were spiritually connected to those of Georges Wolinski and Claire Bretécher, who both did very, very funny satire, if never quite as cynical as that of Lauzier, or Jean-Marc Reiser, who was the darkest and most spiteful of them all. On a personal note, Lauzier was to this reader one of the central creators of adult-orientated French-Belgian comics culture in the 80s. Despite his misanthropy.