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French New Wave film director Eric Rohmer dies

 French director Eric Rohmer receives the Golden Lion award for his career achievements in the Venice Lido September 7, 2001. REUTERS/STR New - Reuters
French director Eric Rohmer receives the Golden Lion award for his career achievements in the Venice Lido September 7, 2001. REUTERS/STR New
— image credit: Reuters

PARIS (Reuters) - Eric Rohmer, a pioneer of the French "New Wave" which transformed cinema in the 1960s, has died, his production house said on Monday. He was 89.

In a movie career spanning half a century, Rohmer, made some 50 pictures, first gaining international acclaim for "Ma Nuit Chez Maud" ("My Night at Maud's") which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Screenplay in 1969.

"Le Genou de Claire" ("Claire's Knee") of 1970 won the San Sebastian film festival, and "L'Amour l'Apres-midi" ("Love in the Afternoon") two years later secured Rohmer's position as a master of the intense portrayal of the cerebral and the sensual.

His work divided the film world, with some critics quick to denounce his movies as desperately tedious, while his fans hailed him as an aesthete who laid bare the human soul.

Rohmer was born Jean-Marie Maurice Scherer in Nancy, eastern France, in April, 1920. After a brief spell as a teacher he turned to writing about movies, founding La Gazette du Cinema with future "New Wave" directors Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut and Jacques Rivette in 1950.

He was later editor in chief of Cahiers du Cinema, the bible of the "New Wave" movement, which shunned the constraints of classical cinema to create a more edgy, improvised style.

Regarded by many as a conservative, Rohmer did not follow fashion. "Rohmer's films never contain any obvious attention-getting devices such as violence, unusual camera angles or even musical scores," wrote biographer Terry Ballard.

"(He makes) films that deal with foibles and relationships of realistic if self-absorbed people."

The movies were not to all tastes. Gene Hackman as a character in the 1975 film "Night Moves" says of Rohmer: "I saw one of his films once; it was like watching paint dry."

IN THE MIND

Rohmer made his first feature film, "Le Signe du Lion" ("The Sign of Leo"), in 1959. He did not become famous for a further 10 years, but worked tirelessly during this period, launching numerous projects, including his film series, "Six Moral Tales" showing men facing moral crises as they fall into temptation.

"What I call a 'conte moral' is not a tale with a moral, but a story which deals less with what people do than with what is going on in their minds while they are doing it," Rohmer wrote in 1971.

"You can say that my work is closer to the novel -- to a certain classic style of novel which the cinema is now taking over -- than to other forms of entertainment, like the theater."

In the 1980s, Rohmer began his second series of films under the banner "Comedies and Proverbs" which were supposed to be lighter in tone to the earlier "literary" movies.

A man with a reputation for zealously guarding his privacy, Rohmer started his third series of films at the age of 70, naming them after the four seasons and beginning with "Conte de Printemps" ("A Tale of Springtime").

In 1999, his "Conte d'Automne" ("Autumn Tale") won him strong critical success at the age of 79.

Rohmer received a coveted Golden Lion for his achievements at the Venice festival in 2001. His last movie as director, "Les amours d'Astree et de Celadon" ("Romance of Astree and Celadon), came out in 2007.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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