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09/12/2010

French director Claude Chabrol dies at 80

September 12, 2010 |  7:23 am

Claude Chabrol French director Claude Chabrol, one of the founders of the New Wave movement that revolutionized filmmaking in the late 1950s and '60s, died Sunday. He was 80.

Christophe Girard, who is responsible for cultural matters at Paris City Hall, announced the death on his blog. Other City Hall officials confirmed that Chabrol had died but declined to provide details.

Chabrol made more than 70 films and TV productions during his career. His first movie, 1958's "Le Beau Serge" won him considerable critical acclaim and was widely considered a sort of manifesto for the New Wave, or "Nouvelle Vague," movement, which also included directors François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard.

His movies focused on the French bourgeoisie, lifting the facade of respectability to reveal the hypocrisy, violence and loathing simmering just below the surface. Often suspenseful, his work drew comparisons with that of Alfred Hitchcock.

Thierry Frémaux, who runs the Cannes Film Festival, told French television that Chabrol "had a much more classic style" than some of the other, more experimental New Wave filmmakers. "But in this classicism there was such an audacity, such freedom and erudition that I think -- and history will tell -- that his thrillers ... will remain something totally unique in French cinema."

Chabrol's top films included "Les Biches" ("Bad Girls") from 1968 and 1970's "The Butcher," as well as the 2000 mystery "Merci Pour le Chocolat," with actress Isabelle Huppert, one of his favorite actresses -- who starred early in her career in Chabrol's "Story of Women," from 1988.

Chabrol's last feature film, "Bellamy" -- starring Gerard Depardieu -- came out last year.

Chabrol was born in Paris on June 24, 1930. The son of a pharmacist, he said he "completely" belonged to the sort of bourgeois social milieu that would become the fodder for his films -- "otherwise I wouldn't have dared" depict it, Chabrol said in a 1987 interview.

The bourgeois "are always amusing and they can also be very mean, so it's just marvelous," he said on the "Mardi Cinema" television show.

As a young man, he studied literature and law before writing movie reviews in the respected French film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma. He had not yet turned 30 when "Le Beau Serge," the story of a man's return to his native village after a long absence, was released to critical acclaim.

In 2003, he won a lifetime achievement award from the European Film Academy.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Claude Chabrol in 2008. Credit: Sean Gallup / Getty Images

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