The French film director Jean-Jacques Beineix died on Thursday at the age of 75, his family told Agence France Presse on Friday.
His brother told Le Monde that he died at home in Paris after a long illness.
Beineix came to prominence with his first film, Diva, in 1980, and achieved wider international fame in 1986 with the movie Betty Blue, starring Jean-Hugues Anglade and Beatrice Dalle. The erotic drama was nominated for best foreign language film at the Oscars and became the eighth highest grossing film of the year in France.
“I love you,” Dalle wrote in a message to Beineix on her Instagram page on Friday, adding that the filming had been “one of the most beautiful pages of my life”.
Beineix was seen a pioneer of the French “cinéma du look” that was later embraced by Luc Besson. “Cinema should do more than just feed people with ready-made, easily recognizable products,” he said to the Los Angeles Times in 1994. “I expect more.”
Beineix trained as a doctor before making his name with a striking television public health warning about Aids. His first feature, the psychological thriller Diva about a young postman obsessed with an opera diva, won four Césars – the French equivalent of the Oscars – and is now considered a cult classic.
His second film, The Moon in the Gutter, starring Gérard Depardieu and Nastassja Kinski, was poorly received by critics with Beineix saying he “never got over” being booed at its premiere at the Cannes film festival in 1983. “The hurt is there. The fact that I am finished today started there,” he told French radio in 2020.
After the success of Betty Blue, Beineix took the plunge when big Hollywood studios came knocking. “I decided to walk across the minefield … to have dinner with the devil,” he later said. But he turned down huge opportunities in the 1990s – including the chance to direct The Avengers, Alien Resurrection and The Name of the Rose.
Although he continued to make documentaries, Beineix began to write, returning to the theme of his greatest success Betty Blue in his debut novel Toboggan. The 2020 work had echoes of the film, with an unbalanced young woman who has a passionate affair with a would-be writer. “I dreamed of love before anything else,” he said.