Alexandre Astruc (b. July 13th 1923)is best known today as an influential film theorist whose article “la camera-stylo”, written in 1948 for L’Ecran, advocated a more personal cinema and a new film language. As a critic turned director he also set an example for the Cahiers du Cinema directors to follow, but his films, which included Les mauvaises rencontres (Bad Liaisons, 1955) and Une vie (One Life, 1958), were largely overshadowed by the arrival of the bolder, more contemporary movies of the New Wave, and his reputation as a director decreased after 1959.
Novelist, critic and director, Alexandre Astruc is considered one of the most important theorists of European cinema of the forties. After completing his studies in law and philology, he began his career as a literary critic but soon specialized in film criticism, working for various magazines such as “Combat”, “La Gazette du Cinéma, “L’Ecran francais”, “Ciné-Digest”, and later “Cahiers du Cinéma”. Along with Jean Cocteau and Andre Bazin, he was a leading figure in the film club “Objective 49” and helped set up the “Festival du Film Maudit” in Biarritz (1949 and 1950).
Astruc's writings were instrumental in the creative renewal of French cinema. In particular his famous article "Birth of a new avant-garde: la camera-stylo", published in L'Ecran Français in March 1948. In the article he defined film as a language, like literature: a form through which the artist expresses his thoughts or translate his obsessions as with the essay or the novel. The text became one of the theoretical underpinnings of the Nouvelle Vague.
Astruc started his film career in 1947 as an assistant to Marc Allegret on the film Blanche Fury. He spent the next two years working on amateur films, and collaborating on two scripts with director Marcel Archad. His short Le Rideau cramoisi (The Crimson Curtain, 1953) played at the Cannes Film Festival and received good reviews. His feature debut Les mauvaises rencontres (Bad Liaisons) came out in 1955 and was followed three years later by Une vie, an adaptation of a Guy de Maupassant novel, exquisitely photographed by Claude Renoir, and usually now cited as his best work.
The films he made subsequently were often overly academic representations of his theories with an over-attentiveness to style that resulted in their having a cool abstract quality lacking in real human feeling or drama. Ultimately, his career as a director was superseded by the arrival of the New Wave directors and in later years he turned to television and novel writing instead.