Michel Ciment Dies: French Film Critic & Historian Was 85

French film critic and historian Michel Ciment, the long-time publishing director of film magazine Positif, has died Monday, French media reported. He was 85.

Ciment first started writing for the Lyon-based magazine in 1963, when he contributed a piece about the cinema of Orson Welles.

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The magazine was launched in 1952 shortly after Les Cahiers du Cinéma by Bernard Chardère, who also died this year.

In a talk at Paris’s Forum Des Images in 2022, marking Positif’s 70th anniversary, Ciment recounted how he started reading the magazine in the 1950s as a teenager, while hanging around the Le Minotaure bookshop in the Paris quarter of Saint-Germain-des-Près.

“It was an amazing place where you’d bump into other cinephiles like Jean-Claude Romer, who went on to create [the cinema magazine] Midi Minuit Fantastique,” recounted Ciment.

“There were a lot of people from Les Cahiers and Positif… You couldn’t find the cinema revues in kiosks then. I’d go there once a week to buy Sight and Sound, Positif or the Les Cahiers.”

Ciment rose to be one of France’s best-known critics.

As well as writing for Positif, he was also a regular contributor to radio station France Inter’s weekly culture show “Le Masque et la Plume”, last participating at the end of September to join discussions on Pham Thien An’s Camera d’Or winner The Golden Butterfly Tree, Philippe Garrel’s The Plough and Aki Kaurimäki’s Dead Leaves.

Across his career, Ciment interviewed a number of revered directors in depth for seminal books on their work including Stanley Kubrick, John Boorman, Andreï Konchalovsky and Elia Kazan.

<sub>Michel Ciment with John Boorman, Getty Images</sub>
Michel Ciment with John Boorman, Getty Images

More recently he explored the lure of Hollywood in the 2022 book Passport Pour Hollywood, featuring interviews with Billy Wilder, John Huston, Joseph Mankiewicz, Roman Polanski, Milos Forman and Wim Wenders.

Ciment was also proud of the directors Positif had showcased on its cover with their first films such as Pascale Ferran, Quentin Tarantino and James Gray.

Former Cannes Film Festival director Gilles Jacob posted a tribute to Ciment on X.

“Michel Cinema wasn’t only a big critic and an internationally recognized historian, he was also someone with a curious spirit about cinema and art having battled all his life. His proximity to the big cineastes maintained the elan of Positif which he led for a long time. Respect,” he wrote.

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