French War Film Director Pierre Schoendoerffer Dies at 83

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Oscar-winning French film director and war reporter Pierre Schoendoerffer died on Wednesday in Paris at the age of 83.

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Schoendoerffer won an Oscar in 1968 for The Anderson Platoon, a documentary filmed in Vietnam. Schoendoerffer served as a cameraman in the French army during the 1950s. He was captured in 1954 and spent four months in a POW camp before he was repatriated and served as war correspondent in Algeria, Malaysia, Morocco, Yemen and Laos. Schoendoerffer rose to fame as a director for his black-and-white 1965 film The 317th Platoon that followed French and Laotian soldiers retreating and was hailed by critics as one of the best Vietnam War movies ever made.

“France will miss him,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement on Wednesday, calling Schoendoerffer a “legendary filmmaker and novelist” responsible for “helping us better understand our collective history.”

Sarkozy also referenced that other black-and-white French film shaking up the Academy stateside, The Artist, saying: "At a moment when our cinema is triumphing in the world, the chief of state salutes, in Pierre Schoendoerffer, one of the very rare French directors who, thanks to the universality of his message, won an Oscar.”

Le Point newspaper called Schoendoerffer’s passing the “death of a legend” and French Cultural Minister Frederic Mitterand called the director “a man of honor who will leave behind forever the mark of a man haunted by war and its consequences.”

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