Prolific award-winning filmmaker Alain Resnais passed away on Saturday night in Paris, his producer Jean-Louis Livi said this morning. He was 91. The Hiroshima Mon Amour director’s latest film, Aimer, Boire Et Chanter (Life Of Riley) was recently in competition at the Berlin Film Festival where it won the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize. It is due to be released in France on March 26. A giant of French film whose career spanned six decades, Resnais was born in 1922 in Brittany. He began making 8mm shorts at age 12 and later attended film school, training as an editor. Of his 1958 short, Chant Du Styrène, Jean-Luc Godard once wrote, “Alain Resnais is the 2nd best editor in the world after Eisenstein.” Resnais first appeared at the Cannes Film Festival in 1947 with Nicole Védrès’ Paris 1900 on which he collaborated. In 1956 his influential documentary Night And Fog, about Nazi concentration camps, was shown out of competition in Cannes despite difficulties with French censors and protests of France’s West German embassy. It later screened in Berlin and also won the prestigious Jean Vigo prize. Resnais later attended Cannes with Toute La Memoire Du Monde and in 1959 was in competition with Hiroshima Mon Amour, which was part of the French New Wave. Marguerite Duras’ screenplay was nominated for an Oscar and the movie was also the first major role for Emmanuelle Riva, who last year became the oldest woman ever nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. His next film, Last Year At Marienbad, won the Golden Lion in Venice in 1961 and was also an Oscar nominee for the Alain Robbe-Grillet-penned script. War was often a theme of Resnais’ early work inclding in Muriel (1963) and The War Is Over in 1966, which again received an Oscar nomination for screenplay, this time by Jorge Semprún. In 1981, Mon Oncle D’Amérique received an Oscar nomination for Henri Laborit and Jean Gruault’s screenplay and also won the Cannes Grand Jury Prize. Resnais was an experimental filmmaker who embraced modernism and surrealism. Later in his career he made somewhat lighter films, and in the 1980s began working with a core group of actors including Sabine Azéma (who would later become his second wife), Pierre Arditi, André Dussollier, Fanny Ardant and Lambert Wilson. In 1993, Smoking/No Smoking, based on the play Intimate Exchanges by Alan Ayckbourn, won several international prizes and in 1997 Resnais’ quasi-musical On Connaît La Chanson (Same Old Song) was a huge box office hit. Resnais would return to the works of Ayckbourn for 2006’s Coeurs, based on the play Private Fears In Public Places. An Ayckbourn play was also the source material for Resnais’ last film, Aimer, Boire Et Chanter. In 2009, romance Wild Grass was well received in France and the same year, Resnais was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in Cannes where the movie played in competition. His 2012 movie Vous N’Avez Encore Rien Vu (You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet) was also in competition in Cannes and was acquired by Kino Lorber that year. Cannes Film Festival chief Thierry Frémaux said this morning, “He influenced generations of auteurs… and reinvented himself all the time.” He also tweeted that Resnais “spoke a lot about other people’s work. He said: ‘Making films is good, but seeing films is even better’.” Livi told Le Parisien today, “He was a happy man who always had a project going. The proof is that we were already working on the script for his next film, Arrivées Et Départs.”
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