French actor-director Claude Berri dies at 74

January 12, 2009 12:32:55 PM PST
French actor, director and producer Claude Berri, an institution in French cinema for more than half a century, died Monday at age 74. President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed him as "legendary."

Agent Dominique Segall said Berri died of a "cerebral-vascular" problem - language often used for a stroke.

Berri produced Roman Polanski's "Tess" in 1979 and directed movies including "Jean de Florette" in 1986 and "Manon des Sources" ("Manon of the Spring"), both adapted from Marcel Pagnol's vision of the French countryside.

Berri's short film "Le Poulet" won an Oscar in 1965.

He was in the midst of directing "Tresor" ("Treasure") - his 20th directing project - when he died, Segall said. "It will continue despite his departure," the agent added.

Berri was involved in every aspect of cinema over more than a half-century as actor, writer, director and producer. But his reach into international mainstream cinema was limited and worldwide Berri was not the grand figure that he was in France.

Sarkozy paid tribute to Berri as "the most legendary figure of French cinema" and "the great ambassador" of French film in the world.

Berri earlier acted in films by Claude Chabrol.