Obituaries

Anne Wiazemsky, 70; author, film star, and wife of Jean-Luc Godard

Ms. Wiazemsky was a leading lady in Godard’s films.

Ms. Wiazemsky was a leading lady in Godard’s films.

NEW YORK — Anne Wiazemsky, a French novelist and New Wave actress who appeared in seven films directed by her husband, Jean-Luc Godard, died Thursday in Paris. She was 70.

The cause was cancer, said her French book publisher, Éditions Gallimard.

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Ms. Wiazemsky, a granddaughter of Nobel literature laureate François Mauriac, was a leading lady in Godard films, a sometime muse, and later a chronicler of his pioneering role in the New Wave, which swept France in the 1960s, fueled by the revolutionary stirrings that culminated in volatile strikes and demonstrations in 1968.

She became an instant star in 1966 when she was barely 18 after a family friend, actress Florence Delay, introduced her to director Robert Bresson. He immediately cast her in his film “Au Hasard Balthazar.”

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In that film, Ms. Wiazemsky played a young woman living in the country who is being courted by an evil suitor while sharing her affection with a pet donkey named Balthazar, which doubles as a symbolic martyr. Bresson’s “range of associations in symbol and dogma should occupy any amateur of Christian theology for some time,” Roger Greenspun wrote in The New York Times.

In a blog post this week on the website of The Guardian, the critic Jonathan Romney wrote of Ms. Wiazemsky’s performance in “Au Hasard Balthazar”: “The fragility suggested by her face, which has the calm radiance of a medieval saint, contrasts with the intensity of her gaze. Together they project an admixture of compassion, repressed desire and that elusive note of moral seriousness that is the base note to Bresson’s work.”

Not yet 20, she met Godard, who was about 17 years her senior, while starring in his film “La Chinoise”; they married during its production. It was his second marriage.

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In “La Chinoise” — presciently released in 1967, a year before the student protests — she played a student revolutionary in Paris struggling with Maoist philosophy.

She played another revolutionary in Godard’s “Sympathy for the Devil” (1968). Vincent Canby of The Times wrote of her performance in that film, “She is an odd, mysterious, arbitrary Godard mouthpiece, answering with a laconic ‘yes’ or ‘no’ such questions as, ‘Is orgasm the only moment when you can cheat life?’ ”

Ms. Wiazemsky wrote two accounts of her marriage, “A Studious Year” (2012) and “One Year After” (2015), in novelistic style. “One Year After” was adapted for the film, “Le Redoubtable,” directed by Michel Hazanavicius, who won the Academy Award for best director in 2011 for “The Artist” (which also won the best-picture Oscar).

Ms. Wiazemsky appeared at the premiere of “Le Redoubtable” at the Cannes Film Festival in May. In the movie she is played by Stacy Martin.

Ms. Wiazemsky was born on May 14, 1947, in Berlin to Yvan Wiazemsky, a diplomat and descendant of Russian royalty, and Claire Mauriac, the daughter of the novelist.

The family lived in Geneva, Caracas, and other cities to which her father was posted. They returned to France just before his death in 1962.

Ms. Wiazemsky, who was educated at the École Sainte Marie de Passy in Paris, was only 17 when she was cast in “Au Hasard Balthazar” by Bresson, who liked his performers to be natural and non-interpretive.

“I was already what he was looking for because I naturally have a very flat voice,” she told The Times in 2001. “He never had to direct my line readings as he had to, a great deal, with the others. And so I did very few takes compared with the other actors — five or six instead of 50 or 60.

“I was just emerging from adolescence,” she continued, “and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. It was very reassuring to be in the hands of someone who seemed to know everything. And when I decided to continue as an actress, it was largely because of the pleasure that experience gave me — of being an instrument in someone else’s hands, at the service of someone else’s desire.”

In another memoir, “Jeune Fille,” published six years after that interview, Ms. Wiazemsky wrote that Bresson had become obsessed with her and propositioned her repeatedly on the set. “For a month and a half, we lived under the same roof with adjoining bedrooms and he never let me out of his sight,” she wrote.

She and Godard divorced in 1979. “Our paths diverged,” she said. There was no immediate information on survivors.

Ms. Wiazemsky acted in films until the late 1980s.

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