Alain Resnais: farewell to a masterful director
- The French filmmaker has bowed out gracefully at the age of 91, leaving an extremely rich body of cinematic work in his wake
Two weeks ago, his 20th feature film, Life of Riley [+see also:
film profile] (which comes out in French cinemas on 26 March) won the Alfred Bauer Prize at Berlin, an award given to a film that opens up new perspectives. Right up until the twilight of his career, Alain Resnais, who passed away on Saturday night (1 March) in Paris aged 91, will therefore have continued amassing awards without ever having strayed from his path as a ground-breaking filmmaker who loved to experiment.
An eminently original director, Alain Resnais had been awarded a staggering number of prizes. In particular, his early efforts earned him an Oscar for Best Short Film in 1950 for Van Gogh, as well as two Jean Vigo Prizes for Short Film for the documentaries Statues Also Die (co-directed with Chris Marker) in 1954 and the well-known Night and Fog in 1956. He also edited La pointe courte, the feature debut by Agnès Varda, who, like him, was part of the so-called Nouveau Cinéma movement (a separate trend to the Nouvelle Vague).
The transition to feature films turned Alain Resnais into a world-renowned personality, with Hiroshima mon amour being presented in competition at Cannes in 1959. The filmmaker was in the running five times for the Palme d'Or - including with Stavisky... in 1974, Mon oncle d'Amérique (Grand Prix in 1980), Wild Grass [+see also:
film profile] (Exceptional Jury Prize in 2009) and You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet [+see also:
film profile] in 2012.
Nor did the other major international festivals fail to exhibit the multi-faceted talent of the director: he won two Silver Bears at Berlin (with Smoking/No Smoking in 1994 and Same Old Song in 1998), and snagged the Golden Lion at Venice in 1961 for Last Year at Marienbad and a Golden Lion for Best Director in 2006 for Private Fears in Public Places [+see also:
film profile]. The Mostra offered him two other chances to participate in competition, with Muriel in 1963 (which won Delphine Seyrig the Volpi Cup for Best Actress) and Love Unto Death in 1984, as well as awarding him a Golden Lion for his entire body of work in 1995.
This wealth of decorations also includes, among others, a special mention at Locarno for The War Is Over in 1966, two Louis Delluc Prizes, a BAFTA and a record eight nominations for the César for Best Director, which Resnais won on two occasions. He is also the only filmmaker to have won the César for Best Film three times, with Same Old Song in 1998, Smoking/No Smoking in 1994 and Providence in 1978.
Myriad tributes, including from the French President François Hollande, president of the CNC Frédérique Bredin and Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti, have been paid in honour of the passing of the master of narrative deconstruction and playful scenography. He was a director whose youthful spirit was never caught lacking, and whose body of work undoubtedly belongs in the Panthéon of the seventh art and should be obligatory on every top film school’s syllabus.
(Translated from French)
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