French writer-director Richard Dembo, whose 1984 chess drama “La Diagonale du fou” (Dangerous Moves) won the foreign language Oscar, a Cesar for best first film and Gaul’s coveted Prix Louis Delluc, died suddenly on November 11 of unspecified causes. He was 56.
Dembo, who also directed theater and opera, was a co-founder (with Pierre-Henri Deleau) of the Directors Fortnight sidebar at Cannes and of the French helmers’ orgs Societe des realisateurs de films and ARP.
Born in Paris, Dembo worked as an assistant to Jean Schmidt, George Stevens and Andre Techine prior to embarking on his own helming career.
An observant Jew, Dembo set out to make movies in harmony with the Torah. That meant no nudity and no overt sexuality, including kissing. Those standards weren’t an obstacle in “Dangerous Moves,” with its Cold War showdown between a Soviet chess champ, played by Michel Piccoli, and his dissident opponent. It was to have been the first film in a trio called “Man Without God.” But it wasn’t until 1993 that Dembo made his second feature, the WWI aviator drama “L’Instinct de l’ange.”
Dembo recently completed two new films slated for release next year, “La Carpe dans la baignoire” starring Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Patrick Braoude and Tsilla Chelton, and “La Maison de Nina” with Agnes Jaoui, Charles Berling and Gaspard Ulliel, a tale of children deported during WWII and their lives after the Liberation.