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Iconic 'New Wave' French actress Anouk Aimée dies aged 92

By RFI
Europe AFP - DOMINIQUE FAGET
TUE, 18 JUN 2024 LISTEN
AFP - DOMINIQUE FAGET

French star Anouk Aimee, who died on Tuesday aged 92, cast a spell over a generation of film-goers with her roles in European masterpieces such as Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita and A Man and A Woman by Claude Lelouch.

Fellini, who also directed Aimée in 8 1/2 (1963) revered her, saying her "face has the same intriguing sensuality as that of (Greta) Garbo, (Marlene) Dietrich or (Cindy) Crawford, these great mysterious queens, these priestesses of femininity."

Born Francoise Dreyfus in Paris on 27 April, 1932, Aimée's life was turned upside down when German troops marched into the city when she was eight. Her father was Jewish, putting the family in danger, even though she was raised a Catholic.

"We moved all the time. We hid... But then the Germans turned up and took over the apartment downstairs," she recalled.

The family sent her to the countryside where they hoped she would be safer, changing her name so she would not have to wear a yellow star.

The war over, her career began at the age of 13 when she was picked from the street to play in a Marcel Carné film that was never finished for lack of money.

She finally made her screen debut the following year and adopted her character's name, Anouk, as her own. It would become popular in France thanks to her.

It was French poet and screenwriter Jacques Prévert who convinced her to also change her surname to Aimée, meaning "loved".

Her career took off in 1949 with Andre Cayatte's The Lovers of Verona. Her class and beauty brought her a string of roles including in Montparnasse 19 by Jacques Becker.

She went on to the unforgettable role as the ageing showgirl in Jacques Demy's heartbreaking musical Lola (1961).

Entry into Hollywood

Her role as a lovelorn widow in Claude Lelouch's 1966 box-office smash A Man and A Woman won her an Oscar nomination, a Golden Globe for best actress and her entry into Hollywood.

Aimée played opposite Omar Sharif in Sidney Lumet's The Appointment and George Cukor's Justine in 1969.

But she stopped working for seven years after she married British actor Albert Finney – her fourth husband – in 1970. They divorced eight years later.

"Cinema is like a meeting between lovers," Aimee told French news agency AFP. "I love that, it's like a gift and I adore the feeling of being loved."

She had a string of affairs, most notably with Omar Sharif, Warren Beatty and the much younger director Elie Chouraqui – with whom she made a number of films – as well as the writers Jean Genet and Jean Cocteau, who were both bisexual.

"She is never so happy as when she is miserable between love affairs," said the British actor and wit Dirk Bogarde, who knew her since she was 15.

Although by the 1980s she was appearing in fewer films, she won best actress at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980 for Marco Bellocchio's A Leap in the Dark.

The American director Robert Altman brought her out of retirement to rekindle her old spark with Marcello Mastroianni in the acclaimed Pret a Porter in 1994.

Honorary awards

In 2002 she was awarded an honorary Cesar – France's Oscars – and Cannes paid tribute to her four years later.

She walked the festival's red carpet again in 2019 for the premiere of Lelouch's sequel to A Man and a Woman in which Aimee and her original co-star Jean-Louis Trintignant were reunited to reprise their characters, now in their 80s.

Aimee had a daughter with film director Nico Papatakis. She also married composer Pierre Barouh, who wrote the iconic "chabadabada, chabadabada" theme tune for A Man and a Woman.

She lived out the last few decades of her life in Paris's Montmartre district surrounded by cats and dogs.

(with AFP)

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