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In Appreciation: Anouk Aimée

Film star Anouk Aimée, the French actress who was a popular leading lady for several of Europe’s most influential directors, has died aged 92.

Aimée appeared in dozens of films across her eight-decade acting career, including starring in Claude Lelouch’s A Man and a Woman, for which she was nominated for an Oscar.

She died at her home in Paris on Tuesday, Sébastien Perrolat, of the TimeArt agency, told the AFP news agency.

Her daughter, Manuela Papatakis, said she was “right by her side” when her mother died.

Posting a black-and-white photograph of Aimée on Instagram, she wrote: “With my daughter, Galaad, and my granddaughter, Mila, we have great sadness to announce the departure of my mother Anouk Aimée.”

French Culture Minister Rachida Dati wrote on X: “We bid farewell to a world-famous icon, to a great actress of French cinema who took on roles for some of the biggest names, such as (Jacques) Demy, Lelouch and (Federico) Fellini.”

Aimée was born Nicole Françoise Florence Dreyfus in Paris in 1932.

Her father was Jewish, although she was raised Catholic, and after German troops marched into the city eight years later her family sent her to the countryside, where they hoped she would be safer, and changed her name, according to AFP.

She made her screen debut in her early teens in the 1946 movie La Maison Sur La Mer (The House Under The Sea on its US release) and adopted her character’s name, Anouk, as her own.

French poet and screenwriter Jacques Prevert convinced her to also change her surname to Aimee, meaning “loved”.

She was sought after to appear in Italian films as well as those in her native country.

Her big break was Fellini’s arthouse film La Dolce Vita, one of the most acclaimed movies in Italian cinematic history, in 1960. Three years later she would appear in his film 8½.

It was her starring role in Lelouch’s 1966 film A Man and a Woman which is said to have made her into an icon of doomed romance. And it earned her a Golden Globe and a Bafta award for best actress, as well as an Oscar nomination.

It was the first time that an actor or actress had been Oscar-nominated for a French-language performance. She lost out to Elizabeth Taylor who won for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? but A Man And A Woman did win the award for best foreign language film.

Getty Images Anouk Aimée rests her chin on her hand as Anne Gauthier in the 1966 French film A Man and a WomanGetty Images

Aimée as Anne Gauthier in the 1966 French film A Man and a Woman

 

In total, Aimée went on to star in 70 films throughout her career.

In 2002 she received an honorary César Award, France’s national film award.

She walked the Cannes Film Festival red carpet in 2019 for the premiere of Lelouch’s sequel to A Man and a Woman in which she and her original co-star Jean-Louis Trintignant reunited to reprise their characters, now in their 80s.

Aimée was renowned for her beauty, as well as her acting talent.

She was considered “one of the 100 sexiest stars in film history”, according to a 1995 poll conducted by Empire magazine.

Aimée had one daughter, Manuela, with film director Nico Papatakis, one of her four husbands during her life.

She also married composer Pierre Barouh, who wrote the theme for A Man and a Woman.

Her fourth husband was the British actor Albert Finney, whom she wed in August 1970 in a low-key ceremony that the New York Times reported did not involve him giving her a wedding ring “as a matter of personal taste”. The pair lived in London for the seven years of their marriage.

Aimée lived the last decades of her life in the district of Montmartre in Paris.