Death of filmmaker leaves French cinema 'orphaned'

Sunday, January 12, 2003

— French filmmaker Maurice Pialat, a winner of the Cannes Film Festival's coveted Palme d'Or prize, died Saturday. He was 77.

Pialat died at home in Paris, the newspaper Le Monde and French radio reported.

In a message of condolence, President Jacques Chirac called Pialat a "master of the cinematographic art" who "leaves a deep imprint on the history of French film."

"Through his powerful, exacting and unique works, Maurice Pialat explored with intransigence and sensitivity the shadows and lights of the human soul," Chirac said.

Pialat directed 11 films in a career stretching over four decades. He made his last movie, "Le Garcu," in 1995.

He won Cannes' Palme d'Or, or Golden Palm, in 1987 for "Under Satan's Sun," a provocative tale about a monk's encounter with the devil.

The movie, adapted from a novel by Georges Bernanos, starred Gerard Depardieu as the clergyman and Sandrine Bonnaire as a girl representing both purity and moral corruption.

At the award ceremony, the audience whistle and booed. In his acceptance speech, Pialat retorted: "Above all I'm happy about the boos and the whistling. If you don't like me, I can tell you I don't like you either."

Gilles Jacob, president of the Cannes festival, said Saturday that Pialat "was difficult at times but also capable of exquisite politeness when he wanted."

"Pialat is dead and we are all orphaned," he said on France-Info radio. "French cinema is orphaned."