Natural habitat: Michel Ciment asks a question during a press conference for Terrence Malick's A Hidden Life at the 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, on 20 May, 2019. Photo: Laurent EMMANUEL / AFP) © Laurent EMMANUEL / AFP
A doyen of French film criticism, the chief editor of Positif magazine and a regular attendee at the Cannes Film Festival, Michel Ciment has died at the age of 85.
Over the decades he lived and breathed cinema either as host of the programme Projection Privée on France Culture (until 2016), or as a lecturer at the University of Paris-V11.
He spent more than 50 years as radio critic for the programme Le Masque Et La Plume on the station France Inter.
In his element at the Arras Film Festival in northern France where he was accorded a Carte Blanche in 2018 in gratitude for his support over the years Photo: Léa Rener
As a member of FIPRESCI (the federation of international film critics) he was always doing the rounds in Cannes from early morning press screenings to late-night galas while he always found time to file his acerbic views on all kinds of cinema - without prejudice - and to engage in lively discussions with colleagues. His robust and authoritative tones usually won the debate.
Despite not suffering fools gladly he put himself out to help young critics make their mark. In a statement the Cannes Film Festival organisers said today that his writing “set the tone in France and abroad.” The eulogy continued: “His death should remind us all of the importance of his legacy and the need for ardent and resistant film review. The Festival de Cannes without Michel Ciment will never be quite the same. We will miss him. And so will cinema.”
Born in Paris in 1938 he became impassioned by cinema as a student, joining the team at Positif in 1968. He preferred the magazine because of left-wing leanings. He was the author of many reference books on cinema and in particular tomes devoted to (among others) Stanley Kubrick, Elia Kazan, Joseph Losey, Francesco Rosi and Jane Campion.
He was driven by an insatiable curiosity and would forever want to explore new kinds of cinema. He supported many emerging filmmakers. His talents were appreciated in various outpourings on social media, notably by Gilles Jacob, former president of the Cannes Film Festival, who wrote: “Michel Ciment was not only a great critic, an internationally recognised historian, but was also a curious mind about cinema and art.”