Film, theatre and opera director;
Born: November 2, 1944; Died: October 7, 2013.
Patrice Chereau, who has died aged 68, was best known in the UK for his films, including the historical epic La Reine Margot (1994) and the contemporary drama Intimacy (2001), which proved controversial because of explicit sex scenes with Kerry Fox and Mark Rylance.
Chereau was an award-winner at the Cesars, France's equivalent of the Oscars, and at the Cannes Film Festival, but in his native country he was also well known for his work as a theatre and opera director. He provoked controversy when he directed the centenary production of Wagner's Ring Cycle at the Bayreuth Festival in 1976. He outraged purists by attempting a Marxist reinterpretation set in a modern industrial society. It was booed at early performances, although the production was a landmark in opera and four years later received a standing ovation lasting 45 minutes.
In 1995, he came to the Edinburgh Festival with the play Dans La Solitude Des Champs De Coton (In The Solitude Of Cotton Fields) by Bernard-Marie Koltes, with whom Chereau worked regularly during his time as artistic director of the Theatre des Amandiers in Nanterre on the edge of Paris.
There were only two characters - one is trying to sell something and one wants to buy something, though it is unclear what. It was a difficult play in any language, made even more challenging for many in a Scottish audience by Chereau's decision to stage it in French. But Chereau always was a perfectionist.
The son of two artists, he was born in a village in the Maine et Loire department in 1944 and went to the prestigious Lycee Louis-le-Grand in Paris, where he attracted serious attention as a director and actor while still in his mid-teens.
By his late teens he was working as a professional theatre director and in his early twenties set up his own theatre. He became co-director of the Theatre National Populaire in the early 1970s.
He was forever looking for new ways in which to stage classic plays and challenge expectations, sometimes altering the nature of the theatre space itself. He was well established in the theatre world when he made his film debut in 1975 with La Chair De l'Orchidee (Flesh Of The Orchid), an adaptation of a novel by James Hadley Chase, starring Charlotte Rampling.
He continued to work in theatre and opera as well and enjoyed great success with his production of Lulu at the Opera National De Paris in 1979. Several of his operas were recorded for television and for posterity.
La Chair De l'Orchidee was the first of 15 films he made either for cinema or television, including La Reine Margot, which starred Isabelle Adjani and Daniel Auteuil. It got mixed reviews, but won five Cesars and was a hit not just in France, but also in the UK and US.
Chereau missed out on the Cesar for best director on that occasion, but won the award in 1998 for the drama Those Who Love Me Can Take The Train. He won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2001 for Intimacy, his only English-language film.
In the 1960s a bare breast would earn films an X certificate. However by the early 2000s European filmmakers had breached just about every restriction on sex. Intimacy was one of the first films to show unsimulated scenes of a sexual nature featuring established actors, rather than stand-ins.
Chereau also found time for appearances as an actor in other people's films and played General Montcalm in The Last Of The Mohicans (1992).
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