Michel Ciment, the highly respected French film critic, historian, author, radio producer, and editor of the influential film magazine Positif, passed away at the age of 85. This news was reported by the French radio channel France Inter, the home of his culture program Le Masque et la Plume since 1970.
A statement from Jerome Garcin, the producer of Le Masque et la Plume, described Ciment as “perhaps the freest and most encyclopedic mind that film criticism has ever produced.” Ciment made his last appearance on the show in September, leaving a significant impact on the French cultural scene.
In addition to his work at France Inter, Ciment also produced Projection privée on France Culture radio from 1990-2016. The channel released a statement honoring Ciment, referring to him as “an immense critic and historian who devoted his entire life to passing on, in words and in writing, his erudition and his passion for the seventh art.”
Ciment’s career in film criticism began when he joined Positif after writing a story about the Orson Welles film The Trial in 1963. He eventually went on to become the editor of the monthly publication, establishing it as a rival to Cahiers du Cinéma.
The impact of Ciment’s passing was felt far beyond his home country. A tweet from Positif, referring to Ciment as the “master architect” of the publication for 60 years, highlighted his influential role within the international film community.
Throughout his career, Ciment wrote books on influential film directors such as Stanley Kubrick, Elia Kazan, Joseph Losey, Francesco Rosi, Fritz Lang, Jane Campion, and John Boorman. His book Passport to Hollywood, first published in 1987, included interviews with industry legends such as Billy Wilder, John Huston, Joseph Mankiewicz, Roman Polanski, Milos Forman, and Wim Wenders.
In 2012, Ciment participated in a Sight & Sound critics’ poll where he listed his favorite film as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. His love and deep understanding of cinema extended to his involvement in film festivals, serving as a juror at Cannes and at festivals in Venice, Berlin, Locarno, San Francisco, and elsewhere over the years. He was also honored with numerous accolades, including being a Chevalier of the Order of Merit, Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, and Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters.
Survivors of Ciment include his wife, Evelyne, and son, Gilles. Renowned filmmaker John Boorman paid tribute to Ciment, expressing his deep admiration for him and describing his devotion to cinema as unparalleled.
The passing of Michel Ciment was not only a loss for his family and friends, but also for the international film community. His contributions to film criticism, history, and the promotion of cinema have left an indelible mark that will continue to be felt for generations to come. He will be remembered as a passionate, erudite, and deeply influential figure in the world of cinema.