The great Claude Berri dies
by Fabien Lemercier
13/01/2009 - French director-producer Claude Berri (né Claude Langmann) died in Paris on Monday, January 12 at the age of 74. The death of this pillar of the French film industry has prompted many reactions.
Culture Minister Christine Albanel paid tribute to "a major producer, who practised his profession with boundless passion, without prejudice, driven by a love of risk-taking, and demonstrating his openness to all forms of film, from popular comedies to auteur films". Meanwhile, Véronique Cayla – director general of the National Film Centre (CNC) – commented that "Berri perfectly embodied the ambition we have, in France and Europe, for film, a cinematic art that is resolutely anchored in plurality and reconciled with all its genres and forms".
Having begun his career as an actor, Berri went on to direct The Chicken, which earned him the Best Short Film Oscar in 1966. He directed a total of 20 features, starting with The Old Man and the Boy, which screened in competition in 1967 at Berlin (where the director returned in 1991 and 1997).
Having originally set himself up as an independent producer, Berri single-handedly developed his company Renn, before it was backed by Pathé. Among the 60 or so films he produced are popular hits (Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra, Welcome to the Sticks [trailer]), as well as works by Roman Polanski (Tess: six nominations and three Oscars in 1981), Maurice Pialat (his brother-in-law), Milos Forman (Valmont), Patrice Chéreau (Queen Margot), Jean-Jacques Annaud (The Bear, The Lover), Costa-Gavras (Amen), Claude Miller, Dino Risi, Claude Sautet, Bertrand Blier, Jacques Demy, Christian Vincent, Michel Blanc, Yvan Attal, Noémie Lvovsky and Abdellatif Kechiche (Couscous).
Berri was also president of the French Cinémathèque from 2003-2007.
(Translated from French)