Only six months into the year, 2016 has already taken three of the world’s greatest filmmakers with it, not to mention a number of other significant figures in the cinema/entertainment/art world. Just last week, revered director Abbas Kiarostami, perhaps the most famous filmmaker to hail from Iran, died at age 76. Though Kiarostami began making films since the early 1970s, he rose to international acclaim in the 1990s, winning the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 for Taste of Cherry as well as a slew of prizes at the Venice Film Festival two years later with The Wind Will Carry Us. In more recent years, Kiarostami branched out beyond Iran, directing a pair of French productions, Certified Copy (Copie conforme) and Like Someone in Love, set in Italy and Japan respectively. Both features premiered in competition at Cannes, with the exquisite Certified Copy (pictured above) nabbing the Best Actress prize for Juliette Binoche. Dabbling in documentary and fiction, shorts and features, Kiarostami directed more than forty films over the span of his career. Other notable works include Close-Up (1990), Through the Olive Trees (1994), ABC Africa (2001), Ten (2002), and Shirin (2008).
Back in January, we lost one of the most inventive and visionary figures in French cinema, Jacques Rivette. From his feature debut in 1961, Paris Belongs to Us (Paris nous appartient), to his final feature in 2009, Around a Small Mountain (36 vues du Pic Saint Loup), Rivette established himself as a legendary, uncompromising director after years of writing film criticism for famed publication, Cahiers du cinéma. Rivette was sort of an outside figure of the Nouvelle Vague, as his heyday came in the 1970s where he produced his two grand opuses: the over-twelve-hour-long Out 1 in 1971 and the marvelous Céline and Julie Go Boating (Céline et Julie vont en bateau) in 1974 (pictured above). Known for improvisation on his shoots, Rivette often worked with a stable of actors that he would frequently work with, including Bulle Ogier, Juliet Berto, Emmanuelle Béart, Jane Birkin, Sandrine Bonnaire, Jerzy Radziwilowicz, Jeanne Balibar, Barbet Schroeder, and Anna Karina. Rivette won a number of awards at Cannes in 1991 for his brilliant La belle noiseuse. Other notable works include L’amour fou (1969), Le pont du Nord (1981), Gang of Four (La bande des quatre) (1989), Jeanne la Pucelle I & II (1994), Va savoir (2001), and The Duchess of Langeais (Ne touchez pas la hache) (2007). Be sure to also check out this fantastic interview with Rivette from 1998, published in Les Inrockuptibles, where he goes into detail about the films and directors he loves (and hates), going into detail about such films as Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry, Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast (La belle et la bête), Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry, James Cameron’s Titanic, Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, and famously Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls, “one of the great American films of the last few years.”
A month later in February, the great Polish director Andrzej Żuławski died at age 75, only months after the world premiere of his final feature Cosmos, which was his first outing as a director after announcing his retirement following his highly underappreciated 2000 feature, La fidélité (I wrote briefly about the film here when it was streaming on MUBI in the U.S.). Żuławski studied film in France during the 1950s before directing a pair of features in Poland during the 1970s: The Third Part of the Night (Trzecia część nocy) and The Devil (Diabeł). When The Devil was banned by the communist government in Poland, Żuławski fled to France, where he directed four features, including his masterpiece, Possession (pictured above), in 1981. His only English-language film, Possession nabbed Best Actress prizes at both Cannes and the Césars for Isabelle Adjani, a role that reportedly traumatized her. Żuławski returned to Poland near the end of the communist reign to direct On the Silver Globe (Na srebrnym globie), a plagued science fiction epic that was never officially finished and nearly destroyed by the Polish government. A reassembled version of the film would eventually see the light of day in 1988; Żuławski would return to France, where he made a number of films with his muse, Sophie Marceau. Other notable works include L’important c’est d’aimer (1975), La femme publique (1984), My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days (Mes nuits sont plus belles que vos jours) (1989), and Szamanka (1996).
Other directors we lost in 2016: Robin Hardy, director of the great British cult classic, The Wicker Man (1973) (pictured above); Italian filmmaker Ettore Scola, who won the Best Director prize at Cannes in 1976 for Ugly, Dirty and Bad (Brutti, sporchi e cattivi); and Michael Cimino, who directed The Deer Hunter (1978) and the infamous Hollywood western, Heaven’s Gate (1980).
In April, we also lost a dynamic figure in both Israeli and French cinema, Ronit Elkabetz, a ravishing beauty who was gifted as both an actor and a director. For a look at some of her best work, check out Dover Koshashvili’s brilliant Late Marriage (2001) (pictured above), Eran Kolirin’s international hit The Band’s Visit (2007), Keren Yedaya’s stirring Or (My Treasure) (2004), André Téchiné’s excellent The Girl on the Train (La fille du RER) (2009), and her fantastic second outing as a director, Shiva (7 Days) (2008).
One of the most recognizable figures in Italian cinema during the 1960s and beyond, actor Franco Citti died in January at the age of 80. After making his film debut in the title role of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Accattone in 1961, Citti would go on to appear in a number of Pasolini’s later films, including Mamma Roma (1962), Oedipus Rex (Edipo re) (1967), Porcile (1969) (pictured above), and all three films in the director’s Trilogy of Life—The Decameron (Il Decameron), The Canterbury Tales (I racconti di Canterbury), and Arabian Nights (Il fiore delle mille e una note). He also starred in all three installments of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy.
And it would be hard not to include two musical prodigies who also enjoyed success on the big screen as well: David Bowie and Prince. Bowie’s film credits included Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Tony Scott’s The Hunger (1983), Nagisa Oshima’s Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983), Jim Henson’s Labyrinth (1986), Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Julien Temple’s Absolute Beginners (1986), Julian Schnabel’s Basquiat (1996), and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992) (pictured above). Prince’s film career began in 1984 with Purple Rain. He would go on to direct and star in two additional features, Under the Cherry Moon (1986) and the pseudo-sequel to Purple Rain, Graffiti Bridge (1990).