Yannick Bellon, French Director With Feminist Bent, Dies at 95

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The filmmaker Yannick Bellon at a movie theater in Lyon in 1989 being interviewed about the release of “Les Enfants du Désordre” (“Children of Disorder”), one of eight feature films she directed.CreditCreditSerge Mouraret/Alamy

Yannick Bellon, a provocative French filmmaker with a feminist point of view whose movies in the 1970s and ’80s explored divorce, breast cancer and the effects of rape on a young woman and her family, died on June 2 at a nursing home in Paris. She was 95.

Her death was confirmed by Eric Le Roy, a friend who produced one of her last films.

Ms. Bellon had been writing and directing short films and documentaries for 25 years before she moved into features. One of them, “Jean’s Wife” (1974), follows a woman from despondency, after her husband of 18 years leaves her, to her discovery of a new life.

“I have treated several aspects of the feminine reality in my films because I feel completely concerned about the condition of woman,” she said in a 1996 interview with 24 images, a French Canadian film quarterly.

Her concern shifted to a more violent topic in “L’Amour Violé” (1978), released in the United States as “Rape of Love.” It told the story of a young nurse (played by Nathalie Nell) who, while traveling on a moped in Grenoble, France, is forced off the road by a group of men in a van and assaulted. Ms. Bellon’s depiction of the rape, shot in a forest during eight-hour stretches over several nights, is long, brutal and unsparing.

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Nathalie Nell starred as a young nurse who is assaulted by a group of men in Ms. Bellon’s 1978 film, “L’Amour Violé” (“Rape of Love”). The assault was shot in a forest during eight-hour stretches over several nights.CreditQuartet Films

In the aftermath, the nurse, Nicole, faces her enraged fiancé, who wants to attack the rapists, and her mother, who fears that if the crime is reported she will be disgraced. Ultimately, Nicole confronts her rapists in court.

Some critics said “Rape of Love” was hindered by Ms. Bellon’s overtly feminist outlook. Others disagreed. Joan Bunke of The Des Moines Tribune applauded the film’s sensitive exploration of difficult subjects like rape and abuse. “Yannick Bellon knows how to make her points without mounting a soapbox,” Ms. Bunke wrote in 1980.

In a 2003 article in the journal Studies in French Cinema, Carrie Tarr, an emerita professor of film at Kingston University in London, wrote that Ms. Bellon’s films and their strong female characters raised people’s consciousness in the 1970s.

“The film thus concludes not simply that rape is an unacceptable crime which should be publicly condemned and punished, but that the woman was right to report it and her boyfriend right to accept her doing so,” Professor Tarr wrote of “Rape of Love,” adding that it had a message “few French women’s films before or since have been courageous enough to address.”

Marie-Annick Bellon was born on April 6, 1924, in Biarritz, a resort town in French Basque country. Her father, Jacques, was a magistrate; her mother, Denise (Hulmann) Bellon, after the couple divorced, became a photographer later known for her pictures of Surrealist artists and their exhibitions. Her uncle, Jacques Brunius, was a well-known actor, director and writer.

A memorial to those who lost their lives in 2019

Ms. Bellon attended the Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies, now called La Fémis, in Paris. Her first film as a director — “Goémons” (1947), a short about seaweed gatherers on an island off the coast of Brittany — won the documentary award at the Venice International Film Festival. She followed that in 1951 with a short about the French writer Colette as she neared 80.

She directed short films, documentaries and TV series before making the transition to features in 1972 with “Somewhere, Someone,” which interweaves stories about the impact of recent modernization on several people in Paris, including an elderly couple. In “Nevermore, Forever” (1976), Ms. Bellon told the story, through flashbacks, of a woman mourning the loss of a female friend. “L’Amour Nu” (1981) is about a woman, newly in love, who learns she has breast cancer.

In later films, Ms. Bellon explored bisexuality and teenage drug addiction. She directed her eighth and final feature, “On Guard,” in 1992.

No immediate family members survive. Her sister, Loleh Bellon, who died in 1999, was an actress who appeared in two of her films and collaborated on the screenplay of another.

In 2001, Ms. Bellon collaborated with the experimental French director Chris Marker on “Remembrance of Things to Come,” a stylized 42-minute documentary about her globe-trotting mother’s photographs of artists, writers, wounded veterans, psychiatric patients, clowns, French Legionnaires and prostitutes.

Her final directing project, “Where Does This Distant Air Come From?” (2018), was a retrospective of her life and career.

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