Anne Wiazemsky starred in French New Wave classic films and later became an acclaimed novelist.
Anne Wiazemsky, an alluring actress who appeared in classic films of the French New Wave of the 1960s, including several by her husband, director Jean-Luc Godard, and who later became an acclaimed novelist, died Oct. 5 in Paris. She was 70.
The cause was cancer, a brother, Pierre Wiazemsky, told Agence France-Presse.
Ms. Wiazemsky made her acting debut in Robert Bresson’s 1966 film “Au Hasard Balthazar,” playing a naive country girl named Marie whose beloved donkey is tormented by a series of callous owners.
The donkey, named Balthazar, becomes a symbol of human cruelty toward other living things, and the film is recognized as a masterpiece.
“Robert Bresson is one of the saints of the cinema,” critic Roger Ebert wrote, “and ‘Au Hasard Balthazar’ is his most heartbreaking prayer.”
It also made the untrained Ms. Wiazemsky, then in her teens, a sensation. Her uninflected, emotionally vulnerable acting style was so compelling that Bresson told the film’s other actors to model their performances after hers.
“He would say to the others: ‘Watch Anne,’ ” she told Britain’s Guardian newspaper in 2007. “‘She is Marie because she accepts simply to be herself without bringing intent or psychology to the role.’ It was not his intention to teach me how to be an actress. Almost against the grain, I felt the emotion the role provoked in me, and later, in other films, I learned how to use that emotion.”
While making “Balthazar,” the 65-year-old Bresson developed an infatuation with his young star.
“At first, he would content himself by holding my arm, or stroking my cheek,” Ms. Wiazemsky wrote in a 2007 memoir. “But then came the disagreeable moment when he would try to kiss me . . . . I would push him away and he wouldn’t insist, but he looked so unhappy that I always felt guilty.”
During that time, Ms. Wiazemsky met Godard, already renowned for his 1960 feature “Breathless,” which launched the La Nouvelle Vague, or the French New Wave movement. They were married in 1967, while Godard was directing “La Chinoise,” which featured Ms. Wiazemsky as a student caught up in the Maoist political fervor of the time.
She also appeared in Godard’s “Weekend” (1967), an absurdist comedy in which a middle-class couple drives to the country, each plotting to kill the other. In 1972, she acted opposite Yves Montand and Jane Fonda in “Tout Va Bien,” a film co-directed by Godard that cast a critical eye on consumer society and conventional marriage.
Ms. Wiazemsky had a prominent role in 1969’s “Theorem” by Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, in which a mysterious stranger, played by Terence Stamp, seduces every member of a family, male and female. In 1973, she starred in Michele Rosier’s “George Who?,” a biopic about French writer George Sand.
Ms. Wiazemsky and Godard were divorced in 1979. After her final film role in 1988, she devoted herself to writing.
Long before then, her experiences with Bresson, Godard and Pasolini and other auteurs led her to adopt a philosophical approach to the obsessive nature of filmmakers.
“It’s almost banal to speak of the fascination that a director can have for his lead actress,” she said in 2007. “The emotion that existed between Bresson and [me], I experienced again with Pasolini when we made ‘Theorem.’ It can give rise to good performances. But Pasolini was homosexual. It doesn’t always mean you’re going to sleep together.”
Anne Wiazemsky was born May 14, 1947, in Berlin. Her father, who was descended from Russian nobility, was a French diplomat. Her mother was the daughter of François Mauriac, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1952.
A complete list of survivors could not be confirmed.
Beginning in 1989, Ms. Wiazemsky published more than a dozen well-regarded books, including a 1993 novel, “Canines,” which received the Prix Goncourt, France’s most prestigious literary award. A 1998 novel, “Une poignée de gens” (“A Handful of People”), received the grand prize of the French Academy.
Ms. Wiazemsky wrote two books about her life with Godard, one of which (“Un an après” or “One Year Later”) formed the basis of a 2017 film, “Redoubtable,” directed by Michel Hazanavicius, whose “The Artist” won five Academy Awards in 2012, including best picture and best director.
Hazanavicius had a hard time persuading Ms. Wiazemsky to allow the book to be adapted for a movie.
“Before putting the phone down, I said it was a shame,” he told Screen International magazine, “because I’d found the work so funny, to which she replied, ‘Really? So do I, but no one else seems to. I thought I was the only one.’ ”
Hazanavicius “understood something very profound about Jean-Luc,” Ms. Wiazemsky said in May. “Out of tragedy, he made a comedy.”
Ms. Wiazemsky is played by Stacy Martin in “Redoubtable,” and Godard is portrayed with remarkable fidelity, down to his tinted eyeglasses, by French actor Louis Garrel.
Godard, now 86, lives in Switzerland.
“I haven’t heard anything from him in a long time,” Ms. Wiazemsky said. “I know that to be on the safe side Hazanavicius has not sent him a DVD.”
French writer and actress Anne Wiazemsky in 1989, the year she began writing, publishing more than a dozen well-regarded books.