Hose Giovanni

Hose Giovanni

French-Swiss writer and filmmaker.
Date of Birth: 22.06.1923
Country: Switzerland

  1. Biography of Jose Giovanni
  2. Writing and Filmmaking Career

Biography of Jose Giovanni

Jose Giovanni was a Franco-Swiss writer and filmmaker born on June 22, 1923, in Paris. His real name was Joseph Damiani. He came from a Corsican family and received a decent education at prestigious institutions, including the "Janson-de-Sailly" high school and the "Stanislas" college, named after the Polish king Stanislaw Leszczynski. However, he tried various occupations without finding his true calling. He worked as a dishwasher in a restaurant car, a lumberjack, a miner, a diver, and a waiter in a hotel restaurant in Chamonix. He developed a passion for mountaineering and became a mountain guide. During the war years, he participated in the Resistance as part of the group "Youth and Mountains".

In 1945, Jose Giovanni and his older brother arrived in Paris and joined a small gang of robbers created by their maternal uncle. During one of their heists, a shootout ensued, resulting in the death of the homeowner, their uncle, and Giovanni's brother. Giovanni's brother was wrongly arrested as an accomplice, even though he never held a weapon (which was confirmed during the trial). The investigation lasted almost three years, and on November 17, 1948, Giovanni and his accomplice Georges Accad were sentenced to death. Giovanni spent months in the death row cell, awaiting execution. However, thanks to the efforts of his father, President Vincent Auriol commuted their sentences to 20 years of forced labor. In 1956, after eleven years in prison, Giovanni was released.

Writing and Filmmaking Career

In 1958, Giovanni published his first novel, "Le Trou" (The Hole), which was based on his escape attempt with fellow prisoners. The manuscript was read by his lawyer, Stephen Eke, and the writer Roger Nimier, who then recommended it to Antoine Blondin and Albert Camus. The novel, characterized by its unique style and powerful naturalistic scenes, made a strong impression on readers. In the same year, Giovanni became part of Marcel Duhamel's "Série noire" (Black Series), where he published three novels: "Classe tous risques" (Any Number Can Win), "L'Excommunié" (The Excommunicated), and "Le Deuxième Souffle" (Second Breath).

The success of his novels in the "Série noire" caught the attention of filmmakers, as police and court themes were always popular in French cinema. In 1959, director Jacques Becker asked Giovanni to write the screenplay for the film adaptation of "Le Trou" and to serve as a technical consultant for the movie. This marked the beginning of Giovanni's long career in the film industry, where he worked as an actor, screenwriter, and director. The film adaptation of "Le Trou" was released in 1960, followed by other successful films such as Claude Sautet's "Classe tous risques" (1960), Jacques Becker's "Touchez pas au grisbi" (1954), Jean-Pierre Melville's "Second Breath" (1966), and Robert Enrico's "The Last Adventure" (1967).

Throughout his career, Giovanni wrote twenty novels, two memoirs, and thirty-three screenplays. He directed fifteen feature films and five TV movies. His experience in the death row had a profound impact on his work, and he expressed his opposition to the death penalty in many of his works, particularly in films like "Two Men in Town" (1973) and "The Black Dress" (1981).

Giovanni lived in Switzerland with his wife and children from 1969 until his death. On April 20, 2004, he suddenly fell ill and was admitted to a hospital in Lausanne, where he passed away four days later, on April 24, 2004, due to a cerebral hemorrhage.