Film à clef

Citizen Kane

A film à clef [fil ma kle] (French for ‘film with a key’), is a film describing real life, behind a façade of fiction. ‘Key’ in this context means a table one can use to swap out the names. It is the film equivalent of the roman à clef (‘novel with a key’). Notable films à clef’s include ‘8½,’ based on Federico Fellini’s experience suffering from ‘director’s block.’ ‘Annie Hall,’ is believed to be a version of Woody Allen’s own relationship with Diane Keaton. Allen has denied this in interviews, however. ‘Citizen Kane,’ is a thinly disguised biographical film about publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. ‘Dreamgirls,’ the musical film based on the career of The Supremes.

‘Magnolia’ is loosely inspired by Paul Thomas Anderson’s experience in dealing with his father’s death from cancer. ‘Adaptation’ is partially adapted from Susan Orlean’s non-fiction book ‘The Orchid Thief,’ but most of the film is a heavily fictionalized account of Charlie Kaufman’s difficulty in adapting the book into a screenplay. In ‘Lost in Translation’ Charlotte and John are believed to be based loosely on writer-director Sofia Coppola and her ex-husband, Spike Jonze. ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’ features a protagonist based loosely on Jacques Cousteau.


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