Wed, Jan 13, 2010 - Page 6 News List

French film icon Eric Rohmer dies in Paris at age 89


French New Wave director Eric Rohmer, known for My Night at Maud’s, Claire’s Knee and other films about the intricacies of romantic relationships and the dilemmas of modern love, has died. He was 89.

Rohmer, also an influential film critic early in his career, died Monday in Paris, said Les Films du Losange, the production company he co-founded. The cause of death was not immediately given.

The director — internationally known for his films’ long, philosophical conversations — continued to work until recently. His latest film, the 17th-century costume tale Les amours d’Astree et de Celadon, (The Romance of Astree and Celadon), appeared in 2007.

In 2001, Rohmer was awarded a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for his body of work — dozens of films made over a five-decade career.

Rohmer’s movies were full of romantic temptation and love triangles, pretty girls and handsome youths. Often they took a lighthearted, chatty form, with serious themes hidden under the surface.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy paid tribute to a “great auteur who will continue to speak to us and inspire us for years to come.”

“Classic and romantic, wise and iconoclast, light and serious, sentimental and moralist, he created the ‘Rohmer’ style, which will outlive him,” Sarkozy said in a statement.

Six of Rohmer’s films comprised an influential cycle of “moral tales” that addressed the thorny questions of modern love: whether to compromise your beliefs in the face of passion, for example, or how to maintain a sense of individual freedom in a relationship.

In 1969’s Ma nuit chez Maud (My Night at Maud’s), a churchgoing young engineer played by Jean-Louis Trintignant must choose between a seductive divorcee and a woman who meets his ideals. The film’s screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award.

In 1970’s Le Genou de Claire (Claire’s Knee), a diplomat is overwhelmed by his desire to stroke the knee of a teenage girl he meets.

France’s culture minister, Frederic Mitterrand, said Rohmer’s “very personal, very original” movies appealed to cinephiles and ordinary filmgoers alike.

Serge Toubiana — who heads the Cinematheque, France’s famous film preservation society — said Rohmer worked closely with his crews and described his creative process as a collaborative effort with the actors.

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