PARIS: French film director, producer and screenwriter Claude Miller, whose works include “The Best Way to Walk” and “Class Trip”, has died aged 70, his production company said Thursday.
Miller died Wednesday in Paris after a long illness, said Les Films du 24, one of his production companies.
“A sad day, Claude Miller is dead,” tweeted the Cannes Film Festival, at which Miller was awarded the special jury prize in 1998 for “Class Trip.”Among other renowned works by the film-maker are “La Petite Voleuse” (The Little Thief) which starred Charlotte Gainsbourg; “Garde a Vue” (Custody) in 1981; and “Mortelle Randonnee” (Mortal Circuit) in 1983.
Alain Sussfeld, head of the UGC cinema chain which produced and distributed several of his films, paid tribute to one of France's greatest directors of actors -- a sentiment echoed by some of those who had appeared in his films.
Miller was a director “madly in love with actresses”, said Sandrine Kiberlain, who starred in “Alias Betty” (“Betty Fisher et autres histoires”). Actor Michel Blanc, who appeared in “The Best Way to Walk”, remembered him as “someone very gentle, extremely attentive”.
European commissioner for culture Androulla Vassiliou paid tribute to Miller's work both as a film-maker and as head of the EU-funded Europa Cinemas network.
“He will be greatly missed by those who knew him and worked alongside him,” she said. Miller's films were anything but feel-good works; he was not interested in heroes and saints. “Niceness bores me,” he once said.
Born in Paris on February 20, 1942, he attended the prestigious Idhec cinema school in the French capital.
He learned his craft with some of the giants of French cinema, as an assistant to Marcel Carne and Robert Bresson, then working with two leading figures in the New Wave, Jean Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut.
He worked his way up through all the key positions in the production side before taking the director's chair in 1976 with “La meilleure facon de marcher”(“The Best Way to Walk”), his first full-length feature.
Charting the conflict between a macho counsellor at a children's summer camp (Patrick Dewaere) and his more timid, middle class colleague, it got five nominations and one win at the French equivalent of the Oscars, the Cesars.
After critical success, a commercial hit was not long in coming.
“Garde a vue” (1981) set out another psychological duel, this time with Lino Ventura as a tough police inspector interrogating suspected child sex killer Michel Serrault.
As well as box office success, it won four Cesars including one for Serrault and another for Miller for best adapted screenplay from John Wainwright's book.
It was adapted in Hollywood as “Under Suspicion” (2000) starring Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman.
Miller returned to thrillers in 1983 with “Mortelle Randonnee”, a curious tale of a detective -- Serrault once again -- tracking and eventually protecting a killer he believes is his daughter (Isabelle Adjani).
During his career Miller worked with many of the top actors of his day, helping some of them launch their careers. He cast a young Charlotte Gainsbourg in two films, “L'Effrontee” (1985) and “La Petite Voleuse” (1988).
His work also included adaptations of literary classics such as Chekhov's “The Seagull”. He had recently completed his final film, “Therese Desqueyroux” adapted from a story by Francois Mauriac, starring Audrey Tautou and Gilles Lellouche. Currently in post-production, it is due to be released this autumn.