Alain Resnais Passed Away at Age 91, Remembering the Lauded French Director

The prolific and ever-experimental director of the art-house classic Hiroshima Mon Amour, Alain Resnais died today in Paris at the age of 91. A contemporary of French New Wave filmmakers such as François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, Resnais was renowned for his films' nonlinear structure and literary sensibility. In 1959, he enlisted Marguerite Duras, who was then at the forefront of literary counterculture with the "nouveau roman" movement, to write his breakout feature film, Hiroshima Mon Amour , a flashback-laden love story between a French actress and a Japanese architect. Rensais then went on to collaborate with another "nouveau roman"-writer, Alain Robbe-Grillet, on perhaps his most celebrated work: 1961's cryptic and dream-like Last Year at Marienbad , which has been cited as inspiration by filmmakers from Ingmar Bergman to David Lynch.

Not one to stay put, Resnais continued to produce films steadily throughout his decades-long career — as recently as this past February, with the debut of Life of Riley, which was honored with the Alfred Bauer Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival. And according to Jean-Louis Livi, Resnais's producer, the director was working steadily on drafts of his next film even from his hospital bed.

"I'm a bit surprised to be so shocked by the death of someone who was 91. Usually we take this news with a kind of calm sadness," Denis Podalydès, a friend and collaborator of Resnais, told the Associated Press. "But the intellectual youth of this man was so surprising."

Resnais always relished leaving his endings open to interpretation: "Each spectator can find his own solution, and it will in all likelihood be a good one," he told François Chalais in 1961. "I request [the collaboration of the spectator] because I think it's the best way to respect him and make a gesture of fellowship."

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