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Louis Malle

(1932—1995) French film director


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(1932–1995)

French film director of the New Wave.

Born in Thumeries, Malle came of a wealthy family; he was educated at the Jesuit College in Fontainebleau and at the Sorbonne, where he graduated in political science. Malle then trained at the Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques, worked as an assistant to Jacques Tati and Robert Bresson, and co-directed The World of Silence (1956) with the underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau. In 1958 he made his first film, Les Amants, starring Jeanne Moreau. Thought at the time to be daringly explicit in its portrayal of sex, it shared the Silver Lion at the 1958 Venice Film Festival. In the same year his psychological thriller Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Frantic) won the Louis Delluc Prize. Malle's pairing of Jeanne Moreau and Brigitte Bardot in Viva Maria! (1967) brought more commercial success than critical acclaim. The documentary films that Malle subsequently made in India were noted for their elegance but offended some Indians by their superficiality, a charge frequently brought against Malle's work by his critics. Other notable films of that time included Le Voleur (1966), starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, Le Souffle au coeur (1971), on the theme of incest, and the equally controversial Lacombe, Lucien (1974), which confronted the issue of wartime collaboration with the Nazis in France.

In 1978 Malle made his first American film, Pretty Baby, starring Brooke Shields as a child in a Louisiana brothel. Atlantic City (1980), starring Burt Lancaster as an ageing crook, shared the Golden Lion award at Venice and won three major awards from the American National Society of Film Critics. Au revoir, les enfants (1987), a return to the Nazi-occupied France of Malle's childhood, explored the friendship between a French boy and a Jewish boy. It won wide praise and the Golden Lion at Venice. His May Fools (1990) was a black comedy set against the background of the students' protests of May 1968. Damage (1992), was a not altogether successful erotic drama. Malle was married to the actress Candice Bergen (1946– ).

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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