Malle, Louis


Malle, Louis
born Oct. 30, 1932, Thumeries, France
died Nov. 23, 1995, Beverly Hills, Calif., U.S.

French film director.

He made his first feature film, Frantic, in 1957. Malle gained commercial success with The Lovers (1958), starring Jeanne Moreau, and he became a leading figure in the French New Wave. In The Fire Within (1963), Thief of Paris (1967), Murmur of the Heart (1971), and Lacombe, Lucien (1973), he achieved emotional realism and stylistic simplicity. In 1975 he moved to the U.S., where he directed films such as Pretty Baby (1978), Atlantic City (1980), My Dinner with André (1981), Au revoir les enfants (1987), and Vanya on 42nd Street (1994).

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▪ 1996

      French film director (b. Oct. 30, 1932, Thumeries, France—d. Nov. 23, 1995, Beverly Hills, Calif.), was internationally known for films that often explored difficult—and sometimes controversial—subjects in a cool, reflective, and nonjudgmental manner. His diverse themes included suicide (Le Feu follet [1963; The Fire Within]), incest (Le Souffle au coeur [1971; Murmur of the Heart]), collaboration (Lacombe, Lucien [1973]), and child prostitution (Pretty Baby [1978; his first U.S. film]). Malle, who was educated at the Jesuit College at Fontainebleau, the Sorbonne, and the Institute of Advanced Cinematographic Studies, Paris, went to work in 1953 for the oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. He served as codirector with Cousteau on the documentary Le Monde du silence (1956; The Silent World) and was largely responsible for the underwater photography. It won an Academy Award and the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. He also worked as an assistant to the director Robert Bresson. Malle's first feature, Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (1957; Frantic), was followed by Les Amants (1958; The Lovers), which established his reputation in the film industry. After making a few more motion pictures, Malle went to India, where he took enough footage to produce the feature-length documentary Calcutta (1969) and seven films that were combined into the six-hour documentary L'Inde fantôme (1972; Phantom India). After his marriage (1980) to actress Candice Bergen, Malle divided his time between Los Angeles and Paris. His later credits include Atlantic City (1980) and My Dinner with André (1981), which featured an intellectual discussion between two men in a restaurant. His last motion picture was Vanya on 42nd Street (1994). The film Malle wanted most to be remembered for was Au revoir les enfants (1987; Goodbye, Children), an autobiographical story set at a Catholic school where Jewish children were concealed from the Nazis. It won the Grand Prize at the Venice Film Festival.

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▪ French director
born October 30, 1932, Thumeries, France
died November 23, 1995, Beverly Hills, California, U.S.

      French motion-picture director whose eclectic films were noted for their emotional realism and stylistic simplicity.

      Malle's wealthy family resisted his early interest in film but allowed him to enter the Institute of Advanced Cinematographic Studies in Paris in 1950. After studying at the institute, he worked as an assistant to filmmaker Robert Bresson (Bresson, Robert) and codirected the documentary Le Monde du silence (1956; The Silent World) with underwater explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau (Cousteau, Jacques-Yves).

      Malle's first feature film, Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (1957; Frantic), was a psychological thriller. His second, Les Amants (1958; The Lovers), was a commercial success and established Malle and its star, Jeanne Moreau (Moreau, Jeanne), in the film industry. The film's lyrical love scenes, tracked with exquisite timing, exhibit Malle's typically bold and uninhibited treatment of sensual themes. Social alienation and isolation was the subject of Le Feu follet (1963; The Fire Within), which was acclaimed by critics as Malle's most mature and sophisticated work. The sombre and keenly observed story of the last days of an alcoholic contemplating suicide demonstrated his versatility as a filmmaker. In Malle's next major film, Le Voleur (1967; The Thief of Paris), a gentleman is driven to become a thief out of hatred of himself and his bourgeois origins. Malle's other films of the 1960s include the zany comedy Zazie dans le métro (1960) and the musical satire Viva Maria (1965).

      Malle's six-month-long stay in India resulted in a feature-length documentary, Calcutta (1969), and a seven-part television series, L'Inde fantôme (Phantom India), which was broadcast internationally to great acclaim. Two of his films of the early 1970s were notable for their moving simplicity: Le Souffle au coeur (1971; Murmur of the Heart), a tenderly treated comedy about an adolescent boy; and Lacombe, Lucien (1973), about a bored teenager who becomes an informer for the Gestapo during the German occupation of France.

      Malle moved to the United States in 1975. In 1978 he directed Pretty Baby, the story of a 12-year-old resident of a brothel in New Orleans. His later films include the critically acclaimed Atlantic City (1980), a comedy-drama about the emotional renewal of a small-time criminal; My Dinner with André (1981), an unusual film consisting almost entirely of a dinner-table conversation between two characters; and Au revoir les enfants (1987; Goodbye, Children), an autobiographical reminiscence of life in a Roman Catholic boys' school in occupied France during World War II. Malle's last film was Vanya on 42nd Street (1994), in which a theatre ensemble gives a reading of Anton Chekhov's play Uncle Vanya.

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Universalium. 2010.

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