Man of Dark Moments Leaves the Screen

Prolific French filmmaker Claude Chabrol, who helped start the New Wave movement in the 1950s and went on to create some of the darkest portrayals on the silver screen, has died aged 80.

Chabrol was “an immense French film director, free, impertinent, political and verbose,” said Paris deputy mayor Christophe Girard, the city’s top culture official.

Born in Paris on June 24, 1930, Chabrol became famous for his sombre portrayals of French provincial bourgeois life.

Along with Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, he was an icon of French New Wave cinema, with all three writing for the renowned Cahiers du Cinema.

He wrote and directed dozens of films over more than 50 years, from his first work, Le Beau Serge, made in 1958 thanks to his wife’s inheritance, to his last film, Bellamy starring Gerard Depardieu, which was released in 2009.

Raised in a family of pharmacists, he spent World War II in the countryside south of Paris, before studying French literature and pharmacy in the capital.

Having completed university, he began writing for Cahiers du Cinema alongside future film heavyweights Truffaut and Godard.

He swiftly achieved fame with Le Beau Serge – it was often considered the first film of the New Wave movement – winning the Locarno Festival’s Grand Prix, while his next work, Les Cousins, won the Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear in 1969.

His second wife, Stephane Audran, was the star of many of his films, including La Femme Infidele, Le Boucher and Juste Avant La Nuit, in 1970.

His depictions of the “petite bourgeoisie” of small-town France were often uncomfortable to watch, showing the greed and cruelty of families crushed by the need for respectable appearances while concealing festering scandals.

He showcased the up-and-coming Isabelle Huppert in his 1978 Violette Noziere about a famous teenage poisoner in the 1930s. Chabrol went on to give her the lead role in five other films, many depicting monstrous yet respectable characters.

His lighter works included crime films Inspecteur Lavardin and Poulet au vinaigre, starring Jean Poiret, which had huge commercial success in France.

At the peak of a career during which he made more than 80 films for cinema and television, the Acadamie Francaise awarded Chabrol the Rene Clair Prize in 2005.

He married his third wife, Aurore Pajot, in 1983. Chabrol, who died last Sunday, had four children.

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