PARIS — French director Claude Chabrol, one of the founders of the New Wave movement whose films probed the latent malice beneath the placid surface of bourgeois life, died Sunday (Sept. 12, 2010). He was 80.
A prolific director, Mr. Chabrol made more than 70 films and TV productions during his more than half-century-long career. His first movie, 1958's Le Beau Serge, won him considerable critical acclaim and was widely considered a sort of manifesto for the New Wave, or Nouvelle vague movement — which reinvented the codes of filmmaking and revolutionized cinema starting in the late 1950s. The vastly influential movement also included directors like Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard.
Mr. Chabrol's movies focused on the French bourgeoisie, lifting the facade of respectability to reveal the hypocrisy, violence and loathing simmering just below the surface. Often suspenseful, his work drew comparisons with that of Alfred Hitchcock.
He worked at a fast clip, churning out about a film every year. He wrote some original scripts, but also adapted classics of French literature, including Madame Bovary (1991) and stories by Guy de Maupassant, for the cinema and for television.
Mr. Chabrol's top films included Les Biches, or Bad Girls, from 1968 and 1970's The Butcher, as well as the 2000 mystery Merci pour le chocolat, with Isabelle Huppert, one of his favorite actors.
His last feature film, Bellamy — featuring another giant of French cinema, Gerard Depardieu — came out last year.
Mr. Chabrol was born in Paris on June 24, 1930. The son of a pharmacist, he said he "completely" belonged to the sort of bourgeois social milieu that would become the fodder for his films — "otherwise I wouldn't have dared" depict it, he said in 1987.
He also acted, making Hitchcock-style cameos in many of his films, as well as those by other directors. In 2004, he was awarded the European Film Award for the body of his work and a year later received a top honor from the Academie Francaise.