Alain Resnais Dies at Age 91


Acclaimed French filmmaker Alain Resnais was pronounced dead Saturday, March 1. He was 91-years old. He was best known for his work in film such as Hiroshima Mon Amour and Last Year at Marienbad. The French president, Francois Hollande confirmed his death.

Resnais was born June 3, 1922. He was fascinated by movies at an early age. He directed his first film, L’Aventure de Guy when he was 14-years old. He moved to Paris to study acting in 1939 and three years later, he appeared as an extra in Les Visiteurs du Soir. Resnais also became a member of the French national film school, L’Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques when it was founded in 1943.

In 1946, Resnais directed his first 16-millimeter short, a comedy called Schéma d’une Identification. He followed up with
Ouvert Pour Cause d’Inventaire, a full-length feature. Resnais’ filmography credits also include various documentaries and sponsored films.

In 1948, Resnais was invited to make a film based on the paintings of Van Gogh. The end result caught the attention of producer Pierre Braunberger. Originally shot in 16-millimeter, Resnaid was asked to remake the film using 35-millimeter. The 1955 documentary Night and Fog solidified Resnais’ reputation as a talented filmmaker. The project dealt with the memories of Nazi concentration camps.

After several more somber projects such as Muriel and Providence (his first English feature film), Resnais began to show a more playful side in his work. He created the 1980 satire Mon Oncle d’Amérique and he started to include music in his work. Some of his scores include Same Old Songs and Not on My Lips.

Before his death at the age of 91, Resnais collaborated with authors Alain Robbe-Grillet and Jorge Semprún of Spain. Although he had established his reputation through his short documentaries, Resnais was often linked to French New Wave directors. He explained his relationship with the term, stating  that there was mutual respect and sympathy between himself and Rivette, Bazin, etc, but he didn’t feel completely a part of the New Wave due to his age.

Resnais was also associated with the “Left Bank” group of writers and filmmakers, which included the talents Agnès Varda, Chris Marker, Jean Cayrol and many others. He received a lifetime achievement award in 2009 at the Cannes Film Festival. “I’ve read articles calling me a filmmaker of memory. I’ve always refused that label by saying, ‘No, I want to make films that describe the imaginary,'” he said upon accepting the award.

Resnais’ last film, The Life of Riley, premiered last month at the Berlin International Film Festival. The movie won the Alfred Bauer Prize.

Resnais, who passed away at 91, was married twice. His first wife, Florence Malraux, was the daughter of the novelist André Malraux. She assisted him on several of his films, including Marienbad and Mélo. They later divorced. He is survived by his second wife, Sabine Azéma. Resnais was a man of many talents. His career carried on for more than six decades. He, along with his creativity, will be missed.

By April Littleton


The New York Times

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