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French New Wave Director Eric Rohmer Dies

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 11, 2010 at 7:48AM

French New Wave auteur Eric Rohmer is one of my favorite directors of all time. He has died, at age 89.
Thompson on Hollywood

French New Wave auteur Eric Rohmer is one of my favorite directors of all time. He has died, at age 89.

Some have called Woody Allen the American Rohmer. That's because both directors specialized in small-scale, short, talky movies, and churned out one a year on a regular basis. They kept on working.

Rohmer consistently over four decades brought a fine, delicate, intimate, observant humanism to his stories. They were often about young people in love, trying to navigate the shoals of working, loving, and doing the right thing. Shot on 16 mm with tiny crews with natural light (often by the incomparable Nestor Almendros), they weren't explosive, bombastic or fraught with drama. But they were never dull, either; they were always compelling. Le Rayon Vert is my favorite, along with the classics Claire's Knee and My Night at Maud's.

Sony Pictures Classics released six or seven of his films. "He was a rarity," says SPC co-president Michael Barker. "There is no filmmaker like him in film history. He was a pure auteur. Some of his films are the most pleasurable you can see, like drinking a fine wine. As we get older and watch his films again, Chloe in the Afternoon, The Aviator's Wife and Claire's Knee are as rich and delightful now as when they came out. He's one director who is truly timeless. He was the most modern of filmmakers. The last film of his we released, The Lady and the Duke, was shot with digital camerawork by a man in his 80s about the 18th century. He was always trying something new."

This article is related to: Directors, Obit

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.