Alain Resnais, Acclaimed French Filmmaker, Dead At 91

Alain Resnais, the critically-acclaimed French filmmaker of such classics as Hiroshima Mon Amour and Last Year in Marienbad, died at the age of 91.

French President François Hollande confirmed Resnais’s death on Saturday, the day right after Césars French cinema awards and on the eve of the Oscars. After confirming Alain’s death, Hollande would go on to say that the country lost one of France’s greatest filmmakers.

Although Alain’s name was associated with the French New Wave movement in films, along with other directors, notably Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut, he also embraced modernism and surrealism. The New York Times would also include that he actually belonged to a tradition of Left Bank intellectualism that drew on more established, high-culture sources.

Along his 50-year plus illustrious career, Resnais directed many memorable films. Probably the first film that most of his fans associate to his success is Hiroshima Mon Amour made back in 1959. The film took on two sociological and political subjects: the United States nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and the German occupation of France.

Last Year at Marienbad won the Golden Lion at the 1961 Venice Film Festival. It probably was best known for its hypnotic representations through the repetition of spoken lines and situations, a time scheme that folds back on itself, and ominous, black-and-white wide-screen images that evoke both surrealist paintings and the society dramas of silent film.

Scene From Last Year At Marienbad

Prior to his death, the last film Alain Resnais worked on was The Life of Riley. The film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival this month and starred two of Alain’s favorite actors: his wife, Sabine Azéma, and André Dussollier. It was also rewarded the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer prize at its premier.

Pertaining to Resnais’s friends, family, and fans, The Guardian reported yesterday (Sunday, March 2nd) that Pierre Arditi, another member of Resnais’s favorite actors, paid tribute to his late friend on France2 Television:

“The most precious thing I can remember is when he would sit crouched on his long legs, resting his head in his hands, and devoured the actors with his lovely blue eyes as though we were diamonds. And of course when you get a look like that you become a diamond.”

Resnais has left a legacy behind after his passing. However, it is remembered and rewarded, especially back in 2009 when he was honored with the lifetime achievement award at the Cannes Film Festival.