Renowned French filmmaker Claude Chabrol passed away today, at the age of 80. Beginning his career as a film critic alongside contemporaries Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette, Eric Rohmer and François Truffaut with the influential French film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma, Chabrol helped to usher in the French New Wave with his self-financed debut feature Le beau Serge in 1959.
He followed this up with a series of arthouse films including Les Cousins (1959), Les Bonnes Femmes (1960) and Les Godelureaux (1961) before shifting to more commercial material in the mid-60s such as the spy thrillers Le Tigre aime la chair fraiche (1964) and Le tigre se parfume à la dynamite (1965).
Heavily influenced by acclaimed British director Alfred Hitchcock (he had co-authored the 1957 study Hitchcock alongside Eric Rohmer), Chabrol began to develop his signature "Chabrol-esque" style in a series of Hitchcock-inspired suspense thrillers and critically acclaimed dramas including Le Scandale (1967), Les Biches (1968), La Femme infidel (1969) and Le Boucher (1970).
The Chabrol style is something I admired deeply as I loved his films Betty (1992), the troubling L’Enfer (1994), The Flower of Evil (2003) and, most particularly, a sterling adaptation of one of my favorite Patricia Highsmith thrillers, Le cri du hibou/The Cry of the Owl (1987). The troubling undercurrent of emotional connections and disconnections made any Chabrol film a compelling if not always satisfying experience.
He directed some of the world’s finest actors and even filmed some of his work in English with such well-known American actors as Orson Welles, Anthony Perkins, Jodie Forster and Jennifer Beals. He was honored with a Life Achievement Award at the 2003 European Film Awards and continued to enjoy a prolific career spanning half a century, with his final film Bellamy released in 2009.