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French filmmaker Eric Rohmer dies

New Wave director focused on feelings and foibles


Eric Rohmer (Getty)  

Eric Rohmer, a member of the French New Wave who directed such films as "My Night at Maud's," "Claire's Knee" and "Chloe in the Afternoon," died Monday in Paris. He was 89. The cause of death was not known.

"Night at Maud's" (1969) garnered an Oscar nomination for best foreign-language film and best screenplay. His "The Marquise of O" won the Special Jury Prize at the 1976 Festival de Cannes.

Rohmer also wrote and directed "Pauline at the Beach" (1983) and "Full Moon in Paris" (1984). "Paris" actress Pascale Ogier won the best actress prize at the Venice International Film Festival, and the film captured a Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.

With a background in journalism, Rohmer's aesthetic bases were literary, not film. His ambition was, reportedly, to be the Honore de Balzac of film.

Rohmer was editor in chief of Cahiers du Cinema from 1956-63. He broke from the New Wave ranks and the ideology of auteurism: "I abhor the coming into place of ideological fashion and the rules that are set up to throw the baby out with the bathwater every time you install a new shower," he once said.

An admirer of photographer Andre Bresson, his strength was in his capacity to depict human foibles and to capture a sense of time and place. According to his frequent cinematographer, Nestor Almendros, Rohmer visited the locations of "Claire's Knee" a year before filming and planted roses in scenes he envisaged.

"I love to show in cinema things that seem to resist cinematographic transcription, to express feelings that aren't filmable because they're deeply buried in consciousness," he told the Boston Phoenix.

Some viewers regarded his themes as pedantic and his aesthetic as tiresome: "I saw a Rohmer film once. It was kind of like watching paint dry," hard-boiled Detective Moseby (Gene Hackman) cracked in 1975's "Night Moves" when his girlfriend suggested going to see one of the director's films.

His films often focused on the psychological states of good-looking young men and women in particular regions of France during various times in their lives. Admirers pointed out his tenderly witty tones and delicate characterizations.

The reclusive director, who eschewed interviews and did not attend film festivals, championed the concept of a film cycle: He filmed series on morality, comedy and the seasons, and he often explored his themes in his two favorite settings: the streets of Paris and the beaches of France.

During the 1960s, Rohmer made six films that have been categorized as his "moral tales," including "Maud's" and "Claire's Knee" (1970).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.