French director, screenwriter, and producer Louis Malle was born on October 30, 1932. He was probably the most successful director to work equally in France and the United States. My favorite Malle film is also one of his last, Au revoir, les enfants (owe ruhvwar layzahnfahn), which means “Goodbye children.” It’s a semi-autobiographical film about Jewish children hidden inside a Catholic boys’ boarding school during the Nazi Occupation.
Malle was from a wealthy industrialist family. Before switching to film studies, he had been a student at the prestigious Sciences-Po. He was the director and cameraman on Jacques Cousteau’s award winning film The Silent World. Soon, he was making his own critically acclaimed movies. He preferred to use natural light and to shoot on location, rather than in a studio.
One of those movies, Les Amants (The Lovers), was acclaimed in a different sense. An obscenity case filed against a theatre owner who showed the film went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The final decision was that the film wasn’t obscene, but the court couldn’t agree on what obscenity actually was. This led to the famous line from Justice Potter Stewart, “I know it when I see it.”
Malle died of lymphoma on November 23, 1995. From documentaries to dramas, he did it all. Whether he was winning awards or creating controversy, Malle made many films of enduring value and beauty.
- Les Enfants du Paradis, DVD review (telegraph.co.uk)
- Foreign Oscar Updates. Will France Finally Win Again? (thefilmexperience.net)