Entertainment & Arts

Alain Resnais, experimental French director, dies aged 91

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Media captionAlain Resnais' final film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2014

Acclaimed French director Alain Resnais, whose film career spanned more than 60 years, has died at the age 91.

His producer, Jean-Louis Livi, confirmed the director died in Paris on Saturday.

Resnais was often associated with French New Wave cinema but he also embraced modernism and surrealism.

His last film, The Life of Riley - based on an Alan Ayckbourn play - premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2014.

It was his third film based on Ayckbourn's work, and reflected the direction his interests took in using theatre as a basis for his films.

French President Francois Hollande said France had lost "one of its greatest film-makers''.

"He received all the recognition and prizes. But what counted for him was always his next work,'' Mr Hollande said in a statement.

Resnais first drew attention with his documentary Night and Fog (1955), which focused on Nazi concentration camps.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Sabine Azema starred in the majority of her husband's films from 1983

His first feature film would also draw on the horrors of conflict, this time the Hiroshima atomic bomb for Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959).

In devising the film with novelist Marguerite Duras, he deduced that the sheer devastation caused by the attack could not be dramatised, so he used the theme of the impossibility of speaking about the event.

The film was nominated for a screenwriting Oscar and won a number of critics' awards for best foreign film.

The film was brought under the umbrella of the emerging French New Wave, which also included directors Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, although Resnais said he did not consider himself completely a part of the movement.

Resnais won a number of awards at major film festivals.

He won a Gold Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1969 for L'Annee Dernier a Marienbad, and Berlin Festival Silver Bears for Smoking/No Smoking and On Connait la Chanson.

He was honoured with a lifetime achievement award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009.

And this year, The Life of Riley was awarded the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize for a feature film that opens new perspectives. He did not attend the awards, instead sending his longtime producer Jean-Louis Livi to collect the trophy on his behalf.

Resnais married his second wife, Sabine Azema, in 1998 in Scarborough, the UK town where Alan Ayckbourn premieres his plays. Azema has starred in most of Resnais's films since the early 1980s.