Louis Marie Malle (French: [mal]; 30 October 1932 – 23 November 1995) was a French film director, screenwriter and producer. His film Le Monde du silence won the Palme d'Or in 1956 and the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1957, although he was not credited at the ceremony; the award was instead presented to the film's co-director Jacques Cousteau. Later in his career he was nominated multiple times for Academy Awards. Malle is also one of the few directors to have won the Golden Lion multiple times.
Malle worked in both French cinema and Hollywood, and he produced both French and English language films. His most famous films include the crime film Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (1958), the World War II drama Lacombe, Lucien (1974), the romantic crime film Atlantic City (1980), the comedy-drama My Dinner with Andre (1981), and the autobiographical film Au revoir les enfants (1987).
Louis Marie Malle
30 October 1932
|Died||23 November 1995 (aged 63)|
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Film director, screenwriter, producer|
(m. 1965; div. 1967)
Candice Bergen (m. 1980)
|Partner(s)||Gila von Weitershausen|
During World War II, Malle attended a Roman Catholic boarding school near Fontainebleau. As an 11-year-old he witnessed a Gestapo raid on the school, in which three Jewish students, including his close friend and a Jewish teacher, were rounded up and deported to Auschwitz. The school's headmaster, Père Jacques, was arrested for harboring them and sent to the concentration camp at Mauthausen. Malle would later address these events in his autobiographical film Au revoir les enfants (1987).
He worked as the co-director and cameraman to Jacques Cousteau on the documentary The Silent World (1956), which won an Oscar and the Palme d'Or at the 1956 Academy Awards and Cannes Film Festival respectively. He assisted Robert Bresson on A Man Escaped (French title: Un condamné à mort s'est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut, 1956) before making his first feature, Ascenseur pour l'échafaud in 1957 (released in the U.K. as Lift to the Scaffold and in the U.S. originally as Frantic, later as Elevator to the Gallows). A taut thriller featuring an original score by Miles Davis, Ascenseur pour l'échafaud made an international film star of Jeanne Moreau, at the time a leading stage actress of the Comédie-Française. Malle was 24 years old.
Malle's The Lovers (Les Amants, 1958), which also starred Moreau, caused major controversy due to its sexual content, leading to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case regarding the legal definition of obscenity. In Jacobellis v. Ohio, a theater owner was fined $2,500 for obscenity. The decision was eventually reversed by the higher court, which found that the film was not obscene and hence constitutionally protected. However, the court could not agree on the definition of "obscene", which caused Justice Potter Stewart to utter his "I know it when I see it" opinion, perhaps the most famous single line associated with the court.
Malle is sometimes associated with the nouvelle vague movement. His work does not directly fit in with or correspond to the auteurist theories that apply to the work of Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Éric Rohmer and others, and he had nothing whatsoever to do with the Cahiers du cinéma. However, Malle's work does exemplify some of the characteristics of the movement, such as using natural light and shooting on location, and his film Zazie dans le Métro ("Zazie in the Metro", 1960, an adaptation of the Raymond Queneau novel) inspired Truffaut to write an enthusiastic letter to Malle.
Other films also tackled taboo subjects: The Fire Within centres on a man about to commit suicide, Le souffle au cœur (1971) deals with an incestuous relationship between mother and son, and Lacombe Lucien (1974), co-written with Patrick Modiano, is about collaboration with the Nazis in Vichy France during World War II. The second of these earned Malle his first (of three) Oscar nominations for "Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced".
Malle visited India in 1968, and made a seven-part documentary series, L'Inde fantôme: Reflexions sur un voyage, and a documentary film, Calcutta, which was released in cinemas. Concentrating on real India, its rituals and festivities, Malle fell afoul of the Indian government, which disliked his portrayal of the country, in its fascination with the pre-modern, and consequently banned the BBC from filming in India for several years. Malle later claimed his documentary on India was his favorite film.
Malle later moved to the United States and continued to direct there. His later films include Pretty Baby (1978), Atlantic City (1980), My Dinner with Andre (1981), Crackers (1984), Alamo Bay (1985), Damage (1992) and Vanya on 42nd Street (1994, an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's play Uncle Vanya) in English; Au revoir les enfants (1987) and Milou en Mai (May Fools in the U.S., 1990) in French. Just as his earlier films such as The Lovers helped popularize French films in the United States, My Dinner with Andre was at the forefront of the rise of American independent cinema in the 1980s.
Towards the end of his life, Malle was interviewed extensively for The Times by cultural correspondent Melinda Camber Porter. In 1993, the interviews were included in Camber Porter's book Through Parisian Eyes: Reflections On Contemporary French Arts And Culture.
Malle was married to Anne-Marie Deschodt from 1965 to 1967. He had a son, Manuel Cuotemoc Malle (born 1971), with German actress Gila von Weitershausen, and a daughter, filmmaker Justine Malle (born 1974), with Canadian actress Alexandra Stewart.
He married actress Candice Bergen in 1980. They had one child, a daughter, Chloé Françoise Malle, on 8 November 1985. He died from lymphoma, aged 63, at their home in Beverly Hills, California, on 23 November 1995.
A Very Private Affair (French: Vie privée) is a 1962 French film directed by Louis Malle and starring Brigitte Bardot.Alamo Bay
Alamo Bay is a 1985 drama film about a Vietnam veteran who clashes with Vietnamese immigrants who move to his fictitious Texas bay hometown. The film was directed by Louis Malle, and stars Amy Madigan and Ed Harris. Future Texas A&M and Dallas Cowboys linebacker Dat Nguyen, who was 9 at the time has a small role as a Little League ballplayer. The title soundtrack "Theme from Alamo Bay" by the artist Ry Cooder can be found on Music by Ry Cooder, a compilation album of Cooder's soundtracks from movies released between 1980 and 1993.And the Pursuit of Happiness
And the Pursuit of Happiness (French: La poursuite du bonheur) is a 1986 documentary film for television directed by Louis Malle about the experiences of immigrants in the United States during the 1980s. It was originally released as part of HBO's America Undercover series on Independence Day 1986. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. It was released on public television in 1988 and won a Peabody Award the following year.Atlantic City (1980 film)
Atlantic City (French: Atlantic City, USA) is a 1980 French-Canadian romantic crime film directed by Louis Malle. Filmed in late 1979, it was released in France and Germany in 1980 and in the United States in 1981. The script was written by John Guare. It stars Burt Lancaster, Susan Sarandon, Kate Reid, Robert Joy, Hollis McLaren, Michel Piccoli, and Al Waxman.
Atlantic City was released on December 19, 1980, by Paramount Pictures. It received critical acclaim and was nominated for the Big Five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (for Lancaster), Best Actress (for Sarandon), and Best Original Screenplay, but didn't win in any category. Despite this it was a box office disappointment, grossing $12.7 million against its $7.2 million budget.Au revoir les enfants
Au revoir les enfants (French pronunciation: [o ʁə.vwaʁ le zɑ̃.fɑ̃], meaning "Goodbye, Children") is an autobiographical 1987 film written, produced and directed by Louis Malle. The film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.Calcutta (1969 film)
Calcutta is a 1969 French documentary film about Calcutta, directed by Louis Malle. It was entered into the 1969 Cannes Film Festival.Crackers (1984 film)
Crackers is a 1984 American comedy crime film directed by Louis Malle. It was entered into the 34th Berlin International Film Festival.Written by Jeffrey Fiskin, the film is about a group of small-time out-of-luck thieves, led by the unemployed Weslake (Donald Sutherland), who attempt to rob the neighborhood pawn shop owned by the greedy Garvey (Jack Warden). It's a remake of the Italian film Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958) directed by Mario Monicelli.Damage (1992 film)
Damage is a 1992 British/French film directed by Louis Malle and starring Jeremy Irons, Juliette Binoche, Miranda Richardson, Rupert Graves, and Ian Bannen. Based on the novel Damage by Josephine Hart, the film is about a British politician (Irons) who shares a sexual relationship with his son's girlfriend and soon to be fiancée. Miranda Richardson was nominated for an Academy Award and won a BAFTA in the category of Best Supporting Actress for her performance as the aggrieved wife of the film's main character.Humain, trop humain
Humain, trop humain is a French documentary film by Louis Malle about the operations of a Citroën car production plant.Lacombe, Lucien
Lacombe Lucien (in English, Lacombe, Lucien) is a 1974 French war drama film about a French teenage boy during the German occupation of France in World War II.May Fools
Milou en mai, released as Milou in May in the UK and as May Fools in North America, is a 1990 film by Louis Malle. The film portrays the impact of the French revolutionary fervour of May 1968 on a French village.
Milou en mai was filmed at Château du Calaoue, in the Gers département, southwestern France.Pretty Baby (1978 film)
Pretty Baby is a 1978 American historical drama film directed by Louis Malle, and starring Brooke Shields, Keith Carradine, and Susan Sarandon. The screenplay was written by Polly Platt. The plot focuses on a 12-year-old prostitute in the red-light district of New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century.
The title of the film is inspired by the Tony Jackson song, "Pretty Baby", which is used in the soundtrack. Although the film was mostly praised by critics, it caused significant controversy due to its depiction of child prostitution and the nude scenes of Brooke Shields, who was 12 years old.Spirits of the Dead
Spirits of the Dead (Italian: Tre passi nel delirio, French: Histoires extraordinaires) is an "omnibus" film comprising three segments. The French title Histoires extraordinaires (translated to English as Extraordinary Stories) is from the first collection of Edgar Allan Poe's short stories translated by French poet Charles Baudelaire; the English title Spirits of the Dead is from an 1827 poem by Poe.
American International Pictures distributed this horror anthology film featuring three Poe stories directed by European directors Roger Vadim, Louis Malle and Federico Fellini. Jane Fonda, Alain Delon, Peter Fonda, Brigitte Bardot, and Terence Stamp are among the stars. The English-language version features narration by Vincent Price.The Fire Within
The Fire Within (French: Le feu follet [lə fø fɔlɛ], meaning "The Manic Fire" or "Will-o'-the-Wisp") is a 1963 French drama film directed by Louis Malle. It is based on the novel Will O' the Wisp by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle which itself was inspired by the life of Jacques Rigaut. The film stars Maurice Ronet, Jeanne Moreau—who had previously worked with Ronet and Malle in Elevator to the Gallows—as well as Alexandra Stewart, Bernard Noel, Lena Skerla, Hubert Deschamps and Yvonne Clech. The score features the music of Erik Satie.The Lovers (1958 film)
The Lovers (French: Les amants) is a 1958 French drama film directed by Louis Malle which stars Jeanne Moreau, Alain Cuny, and Jean-Marc Bory. Based on the novel Point de Lendemain by Dominique Vivant, the film concerns a woman involved in adultery who rediscovers human love. The Lovers was Malle's second feature film, made when he was 25 years old. The film was a box-office hit in France when released theatrically gaining 2,594,160 admissions in France alone. The film was highly controversial when released in the United States for its depiction of allegedly obscene material. At the 1958 Venice Film Festival, the film won the Special Jury Prize and was nominated for the Golden Lion.The Silent World
The Silent World (French: Le Monde du silence) is a 1956 French documentary film co-directed by the famed French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau and a young Louis Malle. The Silent World is noted as one of the first films to use underwater cinematography to show the ocean depths in color. Its title derives from Cousteau's 1953 book The Silent World: A Story of Undersea Discovery and Adventure. It was released in the United States by Columbia Pictures.The Thief of Paris
The Thief of Paris (Le voleur) is a 1967 French crime film directed by Louis Malle and starring Jean-Paul Belmondo as a professional thief (Georges Randal) at the turn of the century in Paris. The film is based on a book of the same title by Georges Darien.
The story centers on his burglaries as well as his ongoing relationship with his cousin Charlotte (Geneviève Bujold). It also features other well-known French actors including Marie Dubois, Charles Denner and Bernadette Lafont. The film had 1,225,555 admissions in France. It was entered into the 5th Moscow International Film Festival.Vanya on 42nd Street
Vanya on 42nd Street is a 1994 film directed by Louis Malle, written by Andre Gregory, and starring Wallace Shawn and Julianne Moore. The film is an intimate, interpretive performance of the play Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov as adapted by David Mamet.Vive le Tour
Vive le Tour is a 1962 French documentary by filmmaker Louis Malle. It chronicles the 1962 Tour de France and focuses on issues such as providing food for the racers, dealing with injuries and doping. The New York Times describes the film as containing "ebullience, whimsy, jet black humor, awe and unspeakable tragedy" and as "a worshipful documentary of a sport made by a man who knew it intimately and loved it." Vive le Tour won the Dok Leipzig Golden Dove award in 1966.Jean Bobet, a cyclist himself and brother of the great Louison Bobet, is the voice-over in this documentary.
The 18-minute film is available on DVD from The Criterion Collection as part of their Eclipse series.
Films directed by Louis Malle
Awards for Louis Malle
|Cahiers du Cinéma Directors|