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From Hiroshima mon Amour to the Life of Riley, French film-maker Alain Resnais dies, aged 91

Alain Resnais at the Cannes Film Festival with (L-R) Pierre Arditi, Sabine Azema, Anne Consigny and Denis Podalydes
Alain Resnais at the Cannes Film Festival with (L-R) Pierre Arditi, Sabine Azema, Anne Consigny and Denis Podalydes Yves Herman/Reuters

French film-maker Alain Resnais died "surrounded by his family" in Paris on Saturday evening, the producer of his last films, Jean-Louis Livi has announced. He had written a script for one last film but not shot it, Livi said.


Resnais, who died at the age of 91 late on Saturday, was born to a Catholic family in Brittany.

His father, a chemist, was local mayor and his family encouraged his interest in culture.

Cannes 2013

Although he at first planned to be an actor, he enrolled in film school in Paris during World War II and made documentaries for the first decade of his career, associating with a group of left-wing film-makers and touching on subjects such as the Nazi concentration camps and the Algerian and Vietnam wars.

His turn to features caused a stir in the cinematic world, Hiroshima mon amour and L'Année dernière à Marienbad becoming a byword for experimental French film.

As he aged he became less political and more accessible, turning to adaptations of British playwright Alan Ayckbourn, the use of music inspired by another Brit, Dennis Potter, and a musical based on an operetta.

Resnais tended to work with a small group of favourite actors, such as Fanny Ardant, Sabine Azéma and Pierre Arditi, later using French film power couple Agnès Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri as scriptwriters on On connaît la chanson, his biggest commercial success with a box office of more than 2,600,000.

Anglophile, perfectionist, experimenter, Alain Resnais "only has one subject", according to Philosopher Gilles Deleuze, "the man who comes back from the dead."

Alain Resnais, a life in dates:

1922: Born in Vannes, Brittany;
1934: Given his first movie camera, with which he makes several shorts;
1939: Moves to Paris to become an actor;
1943: Qualifies to go to film school;
1948: Directs first professional film, Van Gogh, a short, winning prizes at the Venice Biennale and the Oscars;
1954: Works on Les Statues meurent aussi with Chris Marker, identified with a group of left-wing film-makers;
1956: Wins Prix Jean-Vigo for Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog) about the Nazi concentration camps;
1959: Directs Hiroshima mon amour, his first feature, written by novelist Marguerite Duras, causing uproar at the Cannes Film Festival , dividing critics and winning 2.2 million spectators in cinemas;
1961: Shoots L'Année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad) with novelist Alain Robbe-Grillet, again dividing critics and packing in the audiences;
1963: Shoots Muriel, ou le Temps d'un retour about torture in the Algerian war;
1966: La Guerre est finie, scrpited by exiled Spanish novelist Jorge Semprun, stars Yves Montand as a Communist activist fighting Franco;
1967: Takes part in Loin du Vietnam, a collective film organised by Chris Marker opposing the Vietnam war;
1968: Je t'aime, je t'aime, science fiction;
1974: Stavisky, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, tackles a scandal that rocked France in the 1930s, leading to far-right protests and the election of the Popular Front government;
1977: Providence, starring Dirk Bogarde, pays homage to author HP Lovecraft;
1980: Mon oncle d'Amérique, starrinig Gérard Depardieu, Nicole Garcia, and Roger Pierre, illustrates the ideas of physician, writer and philosopher Henri Laborit, who plays himself in the film;
1983: La Vie est un roman (Life Is a Bed of Roses) recounts three stories all set in the Ardennes forest;
1984: L'Amour à mort (Love Unto Death), stars Fanny Ardant and Pierre Arditi in the story of a man who comes back to life;
1986: Mélo stars Fanny Ardant and Pierre Arditi in an adaptation of a 1920 play;
1989: I Want to Go Home sees an American comic-strip author visiting France and is his least commercially successful film;
1993: Smoking/No Smoking (Intimate Exchanges), with Sabine Azéma and Pierre Arditi in 11 roles, adapt plays by British dramatist Alan Ayckbourn;
1997: On connaît la chanson (Same Old Song), Azéma and Arditi again, copies British writer Dennis Potter's technique of having characters break into popular songs in a story of flat-hunting and romance;
2003: Pas sur la bouche (Not on the Lips) a musical adapted from an 1925 operetta;
2006: Coeurs (Private Fears in Public Places), an Ayckbourn adaptation, wins a Silver Lion at the Venice Biennale;
2009: Les Herbes folles (Wild Grass), based on a novel by Christian Gailly, follows a fantasy love affair and wins an exceptional jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival;
2012: Vous n'avez encore rien vu (You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet), loosely based on plays by Jean Anouilh, sees a dead playwright's friends - played by Arditi, Azéma and a host of France's best-known actors, act out one of his plays in his memory;
2014: Aimer, boire et chanter (Life of Riley), another Ayckbourn adaptation and his last film, premieres at the Berlin Film Festival and wins the Alfred Bauer Prize.
1 March 2014: dies in Paris.

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