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Adieu to yeu: Nelly Borgeaud, 72, who graced Resnais' "Muriel" and Truffaut's "Mississippi Mermaid." ... Madeleine Robinson, 87, born Madeleine Svoboda, who took her nom d'ecrain from "Robinson Crusoe," and had 50 years of prominent supporting roles, including in Claude Chabrol's "Leda," Welles' "The Trial," Robin Davis' "I Married a Shadow" and Bruno Nuytten's "Camille Claudel." ... Philippe Lemaire, 77, who was married to singer Juliette Greco (1953-56), ornamented films by Roger Vadim and Walerian Borowczyk and was excellent last year as a corrupt Cardinal in Jean-Paul Salomé's swashbuckler "Arsène Lupin." Didn't hear the acclaim, since, the day after his birthday last March, he threw himself under a Paris Métro train.
Addio, sayonara and vidaaya to: Nino Manfredi, 83, reliable star of Italian film comedy ("Bread and Chocolate") ... Laura Betti, 70, who brought her eccentric intensity to films by Federico Fellini ("La Dolce Vita"), Mario Bava ("Hatchet for the Honeymoon," "Bay of Blood"), Miklós Jancsó ("Private Vice, Public Virtue"), Bernardo Bertolucci ("1900"), Borowczyk (she and Lemaire were in "Ars Amandi"), Catherine Breillat ("A ma soeur!" / "Fat Girl") and most notably, Pier Paolo Pasolini, for whom she starred in seven films, serving as the poet-auteur's muse and, after his death, keeper of the flame ... Tomio Aoki, 80, whose career in Japanese cinema spanned more than seven decades, from 11 early films for Yasujiro Ozu to Seijun Suzuki's "Pistol Opera" in 2001 ... and Soundarya, 31, from the Indian state of Kannada. A medical student before entering films, she died in a plane taking her to a Bharatiya Janata Party campaign rally. Her brother Amarnath, a BJP official, died in the crash with her.
The camera eye closed for these directors: Philippe de Broca, 71, who made five delectable, soufflé-light comedies starring Jean-Pierre Cassel, then six comedy-adventures with Jean-Paul Belmondo ("Cartouche," "That Man from Rio," "Chinese Adventures in China") and the more ponderous anti-war fantasy "King of Hearts" with Alan Bates. ... animation director René Laloux, 73, whose "La Planète Sauvage" ("Fantastic Planet") was anime long before the Japanese "invented" the form ... Alexander Hammid, 96, aka Alexander Hackenschmid, who co-directed two enormously influential short films: the avant-garde "Meshes of the Afternoon" with his then-wife Maya Deren, and the Oscar-winning documentary "To Be Alive!" with Francis Thompson (who died a year before Hammid), for the Johnson's Wax Pavilion at 1964-65 New York World's Fair.
There's a strong case for calling Vijay Anand, 70, the top Indian director of the 60s. Go to your nearest Little India video store and rent "Kaala Bazaar" (a moody black-market romance), the delightful "Tere Ghar Ke Samne," the daring "interior epic" "Guide," the light-toned, Hitchcocky "Teesri Manzil" and "Jewel Thief," and the blockbuster "Johny Mera Naam" ("My Name Is Johnny"), all starring his older brother Dev Anand. Goldie, as Vijay was known, is famous for the brilliant picturization of the songs in his films. His nephew, Shekhar Kapur, makes movies in India ("Bandit Queen") and the U.K. ("Elizabeth"). For a fuller introduction to Anand's work, go to the splendid Upperstall.com site.
Farewell as well to: ace Italo cinematographer Carlo di Palma, 79, who shot two of the most influential of all color films, Michelangelo Antonioni's "Red Desert" and "BLOWUP," as well as Pietro Germi's "Divorce Italian Style," Bertolucci's "Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man" and 12 for Woody Allen ... Brit producer Michael Relph, 89, who could have retired with honor after shepherding that perfect comedy "Kind Hearts and Coronets" to the screen, but went on to produce 29 films, in 23 years, directed by Basil Dearden, including the pioneering "problem dramas" "Sapphire" and "Victim" ... India's Yash Johar, 74, who produced the megahits "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" (which made Hrithik Roshan a star) and "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham" (with Shakrukh Khan and Bollywood deity Amitabh Bachchan) ... and Carole Eastman, 69, who danced in the Fred Astaire-Richard Avedon musical "Funny Face," then turned screenwriter and, as Adrian Joyce, earned an Oscar nomination for "Five Easy Pieces." Four of the six movies produced from Eastman scripts starred Jack Nicholson.
Strangest Death prize goes to Theo Van Gogh, 47, great-grandson of Vincent's Theo, a friend and supporter of assassinated Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn and a polemicist with a fatal gift for annoying his enemies, especially Muslim Moroccans, whom he referred to in columns as "geitenneukers" (goatfuckers). His 10-min. film "Submission," aired on Dutch TV last August, comprised interviews with four women, purported victims of male Muslim abuse, whose bodies, naked under see-through dresses, bore verses of the Koran thought hostile to women. He also twitted Jews for obsessing over the Nazi holocaust and supported George Bush's invasion of Iraq. On the morning of Nov. 2 (our Election Day), an attacker shot Van Gogh eight times, slit his throat, stabbed him in the chest and left two knives in his body, one pinning a five-page note that vilified the Dutch and the Jews. A Dutch-Moroccan man charged with Van Gogh's murder awaits trial.
And speaking of controversial political figures, did any movie producer ever notice that the perfect physiognomical presence for a bio-pic about Yasser Arafat, 75, would be Ringo Starr?
MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC!
Two giants, who broke out in the mid-50s and kept making superb music for a half-century, died last year. The passing of Ray Charles was no secret; he was laureled in print (here's a link to my piece) and in the excellent film starring Jamie Foxx. I wish as much ink had been devoted to the work of Elmer Bernstein, 82, who created both jazzy and gentle scores for more than 200 Hollywood films, from "Sweet Smell of Success" to "Far from Heaven." The impact of a film like "To Kill a Mockingbird" depends on Bernstein's musical delicacy. And chances are that, when you think of "The Magnificent Seven" and "The Great Escape," you're humming Bernstein's themes as you run the images and emotions in your head.
It was his beautifully brassy score for the 1955 Otto Preminger film "The Man With the Golden Arm" that first taught me that movie scores could stand alone as powerful music. I must have spent a hundred hours listening to "Golden Arm" on the plastic 45 record player in my bedroom. (The soundtrack LP was also issued on three seven-inch discs.) I can still play, note for note, the album's big-bandish "Delilah Jones," with its swaggering, "Bolero"-style crescendo, and the plangent finale, with aural sunlight breaking like dawn over Chicago's South Side. To me, back then, Leonard Bernstein was show music, and Elmer, on the same level, in an adjacent Pantheon, was movie music. (Even then I knew that Leonard was "stine" and Elmer was "steen.")
Carlo Rustichelli, 87, wasn't as famous an Italian movie composer as Nino Rota or Ennio Morricone, was he was plenty more prolific. IMDb suggests he wrote 400 film scores. Even of the films itemized on the site, we count 51 scores in the 50s and, choke gasp, 127 scores in the 60s, including 21 in 1964. What's amazing is that lots of them, the ones I've heard, were terrific. Listen to his evocative scores for Mario Monicelli's "The Organizer" and Pier Paolo Pasolini's "The Gospel According to St. Matthew." His work for Pietro Germi ("Divorce, Italian Style," "Seduced and Abandoned" and 14 others) captures the mordant zaniness of Sicily; the music smiles through its own melodramatic flourishes. When I heard back in 1970 that Francis Ford Coppola was to make a movie of "The Godfather," my first thought was that Rustichelli should write the music.
Hong Kong polymath James Wong Jim, 64, kept busy. He played goofy lechers in movies (e.g., the "Stooges" series, with his brother Tommy Wong). He was a controversial comic (one site called him "like a Chinese Lenny Bruce, if you can imagine that simile) and the rude host of a TV talk show ("in the one with Brigitte Lin," says the website brns.com, "he spent nearly the entire 30 minutes asking her about her eyebrows, cleft chin and breasts'). But Uncle Jim's real career was as Hong Kong's pre-eminent TV-theme and film-song lyricist "the Father of modern Cantopop." He wrote many hits for Roman Tam, Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui, and won five Hong Kong film awards. A memorial service, after his death from lung caner, was attended by 35,000.
Jan Berry, 63, of the duo Jan and Dean, had a string of early-60s smashes car songs, mostly ("The Little Old Lady from Pasadena," "Dead Man's Curve") but the hits stopped comin' when Berry was paralyzed in a car wreck. He recovered enough to tour with partner Dean Torrence in the 70s. ... Doris Troy, 66, made the Top Ten with "Just One Look" in 1964. In the 80s she starred in "Mama I Want to Sing," a musical of her life (she played her mother), written by her sister and husband and co-starring her brother. My rave review of the show, calling it "the season's joyfullest noise," can be found on this website's TIME.com archive.
In the major leagues of pop, Troy was a one-hit wonder. So, sometimes, were composers. Movie composer David Raksin, 92, also had one huge, enduring hit: the theme from the Preminger mystery "Laura." Only Rex Reed can and will cite another Raksin golden oldie. Bart Howard, 88, wrote one standard: "In Other Words," whose title was changed to its first line, "Fly Me to the Moon," when Mercury astronauts adopted it as their theme song. But who can name, or sing, a second Howard song? (Anyone? Anyone? Rex?) His steady job in the 50s was as musical director at the classy Manhattan cabaret the Blue Angel. IMDb offers another piquant bio-fact: "left home at 16 to tour the U.S. as a dance-band pianist with the conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton."
A soulful "Taps" to: Laura Branigan, 47, backup singer for Leonard Cohen who had a winner with the Americanized Italian song "Gloria" ("I think I got your num-ba / I think I got the alias / That you've been livin' un-da"); dead, way too young, of an aneurism ... country thrush Skeeter Davis, 72, who as half of the Davis sisters had the country hit "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know" after her partner Betty Jack Davis was killed in a car crash that severely injured Skeeter, who recovered to have, a decade later, the country-pop smash "The End of the World" ... and Johnny Ramone, 55, of prostate cancer. He joins bandmates Joey and Dee Dee Ramone in heaven. As the Onion headline had it: "Ramones Reunion Nearly Complete".
There'll be no more snappy tunes, alas, from: B'way composers Fred Ebb, 78 ("Cabaret," "Chicago," "New York, New York"), and Cy Coleman, 75, who wrote pop hits like "Witchcraft" for Sinatra and "The Best Is Yet to Come" for Tony Bennett before 11 sophisticated, jazz-influenced scores for shows ("Wildcat," "Sweet Charity," "City of Angels," "The Life"). ... Fred Karlin, 67, who wrote the music for two pop hits from movies: the Oscar-winning "For All We Know" (from "Lovers and Other Strangers") and the Oscar-nominated "Come Saturday Morning" ("The Sterile Cuckoo"). ... Joe Bushkin, 87, who wrote "Oh! Look at Me Now," an early Sinatra hit, and the WWII rouser "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Town of Berlin (When the Yanks Go Marching In)," introduced by Sinatra, covered by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters.