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France Mourns Filmmaker Alain Resnais


The prolific French filmmaker Alain Resnais died over the weekend, at the age of 91. Resnais' films captured international awards for over seven decades. And as NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports, he was making movies up until the very end.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Alain Resnais cemented his reputation as a filmmaker with the 1959 classic, "Hiroshima, Mon Amour," made with author Marguerite Duras as scriptwriter.


BEARDSLEY: The story is a love affair between a French woman and a Japanese architect. But it's about the difficulty of discussing a tragedy like Hiroshima. In a tribute, French President Francois Hollande said Resnais constantly broke codes, rules and trends while appealing to a vast audience.

The French have always loved Resnais, says Rebecca Brite, who teaches American Cinema in Paris and heads the city's oldest, English-language film discussion group.

REBECCA BRITE: The French just absolutely adore their Left Bank intellectuals. And he definitely belonged almost more to that movement than to the New Wave.

BEARDSLEY: Resnais was often associated with such New Wave directors as Jean Luc Goddard and Francois Truffaut, though he was a little older and his approach was different. Brite says there was another reason Resnais was so popular in France.

BRITE: Particularly in later years, especially from the 1980s, he worked a lot with kind of a stable of actors - his troop of actors - who were some of the most beloved film actors in France.

BEARDSLEY: Actors like Pierre Arditi and Andre Dussolier.


BEARDSLEY: One of Resnais' biggest hits was the kitschy 1980 comedy "On Connait La Chanson" translated as "The Same Old Song,'' which featured the actors bursting into pop tunes to express their angst.

Resnais got his start in a far more serious vein, documentaries. The 1955 "Night and Fog" is still described as one of the best films on the Holocaust.

He won a lifetime achievement award at Cannes, a Lion d'Or at Venice.


BEARDSLEY: And just this year, a prize at the Berlin Film Festival for his latest movie, "Aimer, Boire, Chanter," based on Alan Ayckbourn's play, "The Life of Riley."

Alain Resnais' final film will be released in France later this month.

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR news, Paris.


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Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.