Film-maker Rohmer dies in Paris

 

Éric Rohmer, the French film-maker who was a key figure of the postwar New Wave cinema movement, has died at the age of 89.

After a hugely influential career spanning half a century and 50 pictures, he died this morning in Paris, his production company said.

A novelist, teacher and critic as well as a director, Rohmer gained international acclaim for Ma Nuit Chez Maud ('My Night at Maud’s') which was nominated for an Oscar for best screenplay in 1969. His best-known films included Tales of Four Seasons and Claire’s Knee, which won the San Sebastian film festival in 1970.

Rohmer was born Jean-Marie Maurice Schérer in Nancy, eastern France, in 1920. After a brief spell as a teacher he turned to writing about movies, founding La Gazette du Cinéma with future New Wave directors Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut and Jacques Rivette in 1950. He was later editor in chief of Cahiers du Cinéma, the bible of the New Wave movement, which shunned the constraints of classical cinema to create a more edgy, improvised style.

His penchant for films that portrayed the angst-ridden inner lives of their characters without adding extraneous drama won him critics as well as admirers. The American actor Gene Hackman, playing a private eye in a 1975 Hollywood movie, dropped the line that a Rohmer film “was kind of like watching paint dry”. But for others, he was an aesthete, a masterful analyst human relationships and one of the most influential of French film-makers.

“Rohmer’s films never contain any obvious attention-getting devices such as violence, unusual camera angles or even musical scores,” wrote biographer Terry Ballard. “[He makes] films that deal with foibles and relationships of realistic if self-absorbed people.”

His movies - intimate, ironic, naturalistic - were framed as explorations of moral conundrums. Referring to the celebrated series of films, “Six Contes Moraux” (Six Moral Tales), he wrote: “What I call a ‘conte moral’ is not a tale with a moral, but a story which deals less with what people do than with what is going on in their minds while they are doing it.”

“You can say that my work is closer to the novel - to a certain classic style of novel which the cinema is now taking over - than to other forms of entertainment, like the theatre.”

A man with a reputation for assiduously guarding his privacy, Rohmer started a new series of films at the age of 70 and continued to work until very recently, winning critical success in 1999, at the age of 79, with his

Conte d’Automne ('Autumn Tale'). Rohmer received a coveted Golden Lion for his achievements at the Venice festival in 2001. His last movie as director, Les amours d’Astrée et de Céladon ('Romance of Astree and Celadon'), came out in 2007. After that, he reportedly said he was considering retirement.