8 September 1930 – 12 May 2016
Jean Antoine was only 23 when he presented his first drama series at the INR Studio at Place Flagey in Brussels. It was 1953 and he was one of its first presenters. At that time it was still very unclear as to whether Belgian television had a future or not – but it was a new medium offering wide-ranging and exuberant programming opportunites to this young man who was so passionate about literature, poetry and the stage – someone who in previous years might have opted for a career as an actor or stage director.
Naturally, culture was to feature heavily in his television output. He introduced to the small screen, numerous artistic and literary personalities who were close to his heart; the Belgian writers, musicians and artists George Grard, Frans Masereel, Pierre Alechinsky, Hugo Claus, Marcel Moreau, Dominique Rolin to name but a few. French artists too weren’t overlooked in his arts documentaries; Marcel Duchamp, César, Arman, Jacques Villeglé Le Clézio and Martial Raysse all featured as did. those artists whom he had met on his global travels ; Karen Blixen, Giorgio de Chirico, Jacques Godbout, Kateb Yacine, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Botero, Moravia and Siqueiros.
With more than 200 films to his credit, his filmography is lengthy and prestigious. The list includes personalities who not only had a major impact on him professionally as a broadcaster but also on his personal life. These include those artists from New York and London who would form the Pop Art movement – such as Warhol, Dine, Lichtenstein, Segal, Kusama and Boty. These encounters in the mid-1960s were to prove crucial for Jean Antoine and his first wife, the actress and TV announcer Évelyne Devaux, who, under the name of Axell, successfully produced work recognised as part of the Pop Art movement. Assisted by his second wife and companion, Mali Funakoshi, Antoine tirelessly worked to have Devaux’s talent recognized internationally following her tragic death in a car crash in 1972.
All these encounters and the resulting travel, inspired him to develop other major projects that would subsequently become prominent milestones in the history of Belgian television.
In the 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, Antoine embarked upon work as director of a challenging documentary series focussing on the countries that made up the former Soviet Union. In 1975, some years after shooting l’École de New York, he returned to the United States to document the bicentennial anniversary of the independence of the country.
The 1980s saw him heading eastwards. He shot Chine Immémoriale, and then went on to explore the hitherto largely unknown Japan, where he directed five unique documentaries with the invaluable and steadfast help of his wife Mali. He was to return to Japan several years later to create, in his own inimitable style, a series of portrait-interviews of major Japanese artists. The sculptors Satoshi Yabuuchi, Katsura Funakoshi and Takashi Fukai, the writers Yasushi Inoue and Seiji Tsutsumi, and the architect Tadao Ando all appeared for his camera.
In recent years, Jean Antoine initiated a project to edit and bring back to the screen the many brilliant subjects of all his films – the voices that have for almost half a century been so important to him. He longed to disclose the behind the scenes events that happened during the making of his documentary films and to explain how these happenings and personalities have influenced and affected his own career.
He was totally committed to completing this final assignment.
This website is dedicated to his life and work.