Sunday, September 19, 2010

Director Claude Chabrol Passes On

Claude Chabrol, one of the earliest directors of the French New Wave, passed on 12 September 2010 at the age of 80.

Claude Chabrol was born in Paris on 24 June 1930. Much of his time when he was growing up was spent in the village of Sardent. During World War II he spent much of his time running a film club. After the war he returned to Paris to study law, but later switched to pharmacology and finally to literature, in which he earned a degree. He became a publicist for 20th Century Fox and went onto write both interviews and articles for such publications as Art and Les Cahiers du Cinéma. In 1955 he and Éric Rohmer co-wrote their study of Alfred Hitchcock films.

Mr. Chabrol made his feature film debut in 1958 with Le beau Serge. The film is often regarded as the first movie in La Nouvelle Vague. The following year Mr. Chabrol would follow it with Les Cousins, one of the earliest New Wave films to see success at the box office. Like many of his films, Mr. Chabrol's next three films would be odes to Hitchcock: À double tour (1959), Les bonnes femmes (1960), and Les godelureaux (1961).  Claude Chabrol would go onto make such films as Landru (1963), Code Name: Tiger (1964), Les Biches (1968), The Beast Must Die (1969), Le boucher (1970), Les noces rouges (1973), Violette Nozière (1978), Les fantômes du chapelier (1982), Masques (1987), Une affaire de femmes (1988), Madame Bovary (1991), La cérémonie (1995), Au coeur du mensonge (1999), Rien ne va plus (1997), Merci pour le chocolat (2000), La fleur du mal (2003), La demoiselle d'honneur (2004),  L'ivresse du pouvoir (2006), La fille coupée en deux (2007), and Bellamy (2009). He was extremely prolific, directing at least one film a year from 1958 to 1980.

Claude Chabrol also worked in television, directing episodes of Nouvelles de Henry James, Histoires insolites, Il était un musicien, Fantômas, and Au siècle de Maupassant: Contes et nouvelles du XIXème siècle. Mr. Chabrol also made cameos in films and took small roles as an actor, appearing in many of his own films as well as Saint Tropez Blues (1961), Paris nous appartient (1961), Les ennemis (1962), Brigette et Brigette (1966), La femme écarlate (1969), and Gainsbourg (2010). He also wrote or co-wrote the screenplays for most of his films.

Although not as well known as Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, or Éric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol deserves credit for being one of the men to start the French New Wave. Indeed, he was among the first directors of the New Wave, making his first feature film before Mr. Truffaut had even made his. Indeed, with the other New Wave directors Mr. Chabrol was heavily influenced by Hitchcock. This is shown in his most famous films, such as Le boucher (in which a series of Jack the Ripper style killings grip a French town) . At the same time Mr. Chabrol's films often attacked the attitudes of the middle class and the elite, with the theme of class distinctions recurring again and again in his movies. Although best known for his Hitchcockian thrillers, Mr. Chabrol also worked in other genres, from costume dramas (Madame Bovary) to even joining in the Sixties spy craze with a Euro-spy film (Code Name: Tiger, not one of the high points of his career). He was a prolific director who directed polished films and worked in several different genres. In this respect, although not as well known as some of his colleagues from La Nouvelle Vague, Claude Chabrol was every bit one of the best directors to emerge from the New Wave.

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