Together with his wife Daniele Huillet, Straub was responsible for a string of challenging political films
Anti-conformist French film-maker Jean-Marie Straub died peacefully at his home in Switzerland on Sunday, the Swiss National Film Archive announced. He was 89.
Straub was a peer of many greats from the French New Wave and received the Locarno film festival’s lifetime achievement award in 2017.
“I spoke to Mrs Straub at midday; he died at 6am this morning at his house in Rolle,” Cinémathèque Suisse spokesman Christophe Bolli told AFP. “He died peacefully.” Rolle is on Lake Geneva in Switzerland, and was also the home town of film-maker Jean-Luc Godard, who died in September.
Born in 1933 in Metz in northeastern France, Straub started out as an assistant to some of the great French film-makers of the age, including Jean Renoir, Jacques Rivette and Robert Bresson. He was close to New Wave standard-bearers François Truffaut and Godard.
In the 1960s, he left France for Germany to avoid conscription in the Algerian war, directing films in tandem with his wife Daniele Huillet, who died in 2006. The couple challenged traditional narrative and aesthetic patterns. Among their best-known films are The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (1968), From the Clouds to the Resistance (1979) and Sicilia! (1999).
He eventually lived around the corner from Godard, who died in Rolle aged 91. “We were very, very close to him. He also donated some of his films to us,” Bolli said of Straub. “We had done a lot of screenings with him and he came many times between 2018 and 2019. Afterwards, his health deteriorated.”
Straub was awarded Locarno’s Leopard of Honour, putting him in the company of other recipients including Rivette, Godard, Ennio Morricone, Bernardo Bertolucci, Paul Verhoeven, Ken Loach, Terry Gilliam, Werner Herzog and John Landis.
Sign up to Film Weekly
Take a front seat at the cinema with our weekly email filled with all the latest news and all the movie action that matters
“Thank you Jean-Marie for your generosity and your sharp outlook on the world, which is highly topical. We will watch over your legacy and make it shine,” Cinémathèque Suisse director Frederic Maire said.