Michel Ciment, the esteemed French film critic, historian, author, radio producer and editor of the influential film magazine Positif, has died. He was 85.
His death was reported Monday by the French radio channel France Inter, the home of his culture program Le Masque et la Plume since 1970.
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Ciment was “perhaps the freest and most encyclopedic mind that film criticism has ever produced,” Le Masque et la Plume producer Jérome Garcin in a statement. He made what would be his last appearance on the show in September.
The Paris native also produced Projection privée on France Culture radio from 1990-2016. He was “an immense critic and historian who devoted his entire life to passing on, in words and in writing, his erudition and his passion for the seventh art,” a statement from the channel said.
Ciment joined Positif after sending in a story about the Orson Welles film The Trial in 1963 and would become its editor, setting up the monthly publication as a rival to Cahiers du Cinéma.
Chers lecteurs, amies et amis de Positif,
Michel Ciment nous a quittés hier soir. Depuis très exactement 60 ans, et un premier article publié sur Orson Welles dans nos pages, il était le maître architecte de nos sommaires, incarnait et représentait notre revue dans le monde pic.twitter.com/l9Gv4tKLHa
— Positif (@RevuePositif) November 14, 2023
Ciment wrote books on Stanley Kubrick, Elia Kazan, Joseph Losey, Francesco Rosi, Fritz Lang, Jane Campion and John Boorman, and his Passport to Hollywood, first published in 1987, included interviews with Billy Wilder, John Huston, Joseph Mankiewicz, Roman Polanski, Milos Forman and Wim Wenders.
In a 2012 Sight & Sound critics’ poll, he listed his favorite film as Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
On X, former Cannes Film Festival president of the Gilles Jacob wrote that Ciment was “not only a great critic and internationally renowned historian, but also a curious spirit about cinema and art who had fought hard all his life.”
He served as a juror at Cannes and at festivals in Venice, Berlin, Locarno, San Francisco and elsewhere over the years and was a Chevalier of the Order of Merit, Chevalier of the Legion of Honour and Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters.
Survivors include his wife, Evelyne, and son, Gilles.
“To say that Michel was passionate about the cinema was to do him an injustice. He lived and ate and dreamed cinema,” Boorman wrote. “I’m so sorry for his family but also for myself. I loved him and admired him, he was an original.”
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