Alain Cavalier (b. 14th September 1931) came of age as a filmmaker during the New Wave era but had a distinctive vision which set him apart from his contemporaries. He made his name with political thrillers featuring complex characters such as Le Combat dans l’ile (Fire and Ice, 1962) and L’Insoumis (The Unvanquished, 1964), later turning to more philosophical works such as Un étrange voyage (1981) and Thérèse (1986) which won César Awards for Best Film and Best Director.
After studying History, Alain Cavalier trained at the Institut des hautes etudes cinématographiques (The Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies), then became assistant to Louis Malle ( Elevator to the Gallows , The Lovers).
He started directing with the short film An American (1958), before making his feature debut with the political thriller Le Combat dans I’île (Fire and Ice, 1962) starring Romy Schneider and Jean-Louis Trintignant. His next film L’Insoumis (The Unvanquished, 1964) starring Alain Delon, was another political thriller that drew on the Algerian war as its backdrop. Despite the presence of well-known actors, both films failed at the box office, in part due to their controversial subject matter.
Cavalier had his first real success with the thriller Mise à sac (Pillaged, 1967). This was followed by his biggest hit, La Chamade (Heartbeat), based on the novel by Francoise Sagan. Then, abruptly, he decided to forego directing for eight years. During this time he married French film actress and former Miss France winner Irène Tunc, who died in a car crash in 1972.
After recovering from his wife's death he returned with more experimental films, including the comedies Le Plein de super (Fill ‘er up with Super, 1976) and Martin et Léa (1978). These were followed by Ce répondeur ne prend pas de messages (This Answering Service Takes No Messages, 1979) and Un étrange voyage (A Strange Voyage, 1981), both of which dealt with the loss of a loved one. He enjoyed unexpected success with a feature film about holiness, Thérèse (1986), with a standing ovation at Cannes, where it won the Jury Prize. It also won six César Awards that year including those for Best Film and Best Director.
In he 90s, Cavalier continued his experimental work, and produced a film without dialogue: Libera me (1993) with the theme of oppression and torture. He then decided to abandon fiction and produced a series of documentary portraits, Vies ( Lives , 2000). In 2002 he mixed fiction and reality in René (2002) about one of his overweight actor friends' commitment to lose weight.
At the turn of the century, his autobiographical work continued with Le Filmeur (2005), a diary filmed between 1994 and 2005. It was screened at Cannes in 2005 as part of the "Un Certain Regard" selection. In 2009, he documented his marriage to Irène Tunc in Irene, starring Catherine Deneuve.
In 2011 Cavalier returned to competition at Cannes at the age of 79 with Pater which explored the relationship between the president of a Republic and his chosen heir.