French New Wave film director Eric Rohmer dies

Mon Jan 11, 2010 1:58pm EST
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PARIS (Reuters) - Eric Rohmer, a pioneer of the French "New Wave" which transformed cinema in the 1960s, has died, his production house said on Monday. He was 89.

In a movie career spanning half a century, Rohmer, made some 50 pictures, first gaining international acclaim for "Ma Nuit Chez Maud" ("My Night at Maud's") which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Screenplay in 1969.

"Le Genou de Claire" ("Claire's Knee") of 1970 won the San Sebastian film festival, and "L'Amour l'Apres-midi" ("Love in the Afternoon") two years later secured Rohmer's position as a master of the intense portrayal of the cerebral and the sensual.

His work divided the film world, with some critics quick to denounce his movies as desperately tedious, while his fans hailed him as an aesthete who laid bare the human soul.

Rohmer was born Jean-Marie Maurice Scherer in Nancy, eastern France, in April, 1920. After a brief spell as a teacher he turned to writing about movies, founding La Gazette du Cinema with future "New Wave" directors Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut and Jacques Rivette in 1950.

He was later editor in chief of Cahiers du Cinema, the bible of the "New Wave" movement, which shunned the constraints of classical cinema to create a more edgy, improvised style.

Regarded by many as a conservative, Rohmer did not follow fashion. "Rohmer's films never contain any obvious attention-getting devices such as violence, unusual camera angles or even musical scores," wrote biographer Terry Ballard.

"(He makes) films that deal with foibles and relationships of realistic if self-absorbed people."

The movies were not to all tastes. Gene Hackman as a character in the 1975 film "Night Moves" says of Rohmer: "I saw one of his films once; it was like watching paint dry."   Continued...