July 30, 2007

R.I.P. Ingmar Bergman and Michel Serrault

Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman has died, local media reported Monday. He was 89 years old. Bergman died at his home in Faro, Sweden, Swedish news agency TT said, citing his daughter Eva Bergman.

Through more than 50 films, Bergman's vision encompassed all the extremes of his beloved Sweden: the claustrophobic gloom of unending winter nights, the gentle merriment of glowing summer evenings and the bleak magnificence of the island where he spent his last years.

Bergman, who approached difficult subjects such as plague and madness with inventive technique and carefully honed writing, became one of the towering figures of serious filmmaking. He was "probably the greatest film artist, all things considered, since the invention of the motion picture camera," Woody Allen said in a 70th birthday tribute in 1988.

French actor Michel Serrault, whose performance as a transvestite in the film and screen versions of "La cage aux folles" (The Birdcage) catapulted him to international stardom, has died, his priest said Monday. He was 79. Serrault died Sunday of cancer in his home in the northwestern city of Honfleur, Rev. Alain Maillard de La Morandais said.

Serrault appeared in more than 130 films during a career that spanned half a century. After debuting as a comic actor, Serrault became one of France's most versatile stars, playing a serial killer, a grizzled farmer, a crooked banker and accused rapist. "I'm against those who only want to entertain," Serrault said in 2002. "I am very happy with all the roles I've played, and I take responsibility for them all."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy paid homage to Serrault's "impressive filmography," calling the actor a "monument of the world of the theater, the cinema and the television."

He made his silver screen debut in 1954 in Jean Loubignac's "Ah! les belles bacchantes" (Oh, the lovely bacchantes), which was released as "Peek-a-boo" in the United States. His first big break came in 1972, with a leading role in Pierre Tchernia's "Le Viager" (The Life Annuity). But it was his role as flamboyant gay nightclub owner Albin Mougeotte, also known as Zaza Napoli, in the theater and film versions of the mega-hit "La cage aux folles" (The Birdcage) that catapulted him to fame worldwide. His performance in director Edouard Molinaro's 1978 movie won him the first of three Cesar awards - the French version of the Oscar.

Serrault remained active, featuring in films through his late seventies. Among his final films was Pierre Javaux's 2006 "Les enfants du pays" (Hometown Boys), about the role of African soldiers in WWII.

Serrault is survived by his wife, Juanita, and daughter, Nathalie.

No comments: