Once described as the true heir to Jean Renoir's legacy, French filmmaker Maurice Pialat is noted for his brutal, insightful portraits of the less savory aspects of family life and French society, as well as for his ability to evoke unusually powerful and realistic performances from his actors regardless of their professional status. Pialat, who is known as one of his country's more "difficult" directors due to both his subject matter and on-set clashes, was born in Puy-de-Dôme but raised in Paris after the age of three. He started out as a painter and jack-of-all-trades and did sporadic work as an actor. In the late '50s, Pialat became fascinated with cinema, and he got his start making short films, notably L'Amour Existe (1961), which won a prize at the Venice Festival.
After spending much of the '60s working in French television, Pialat made his feature-film debut in 1968 with L'Enfance Nue (Naked Childhood), a cinema verité-style drama utilizing nonprofessional actors. A study in New Wave realism that was relentless in its focus on the unglamorous realities of life, the film won Pialat international acclaim. His subsequent work continued in the realist vein, with very rare excursions into the genre realm (Police , Sous le Soleil du Satan ). Some of Pialat's more notable films include Loulou (1980), a study of middle-class ennui and the liberating benefits of hooliganism; À Nos Amours (1983), which focused on the emotionally problematic life of a promiscuous teenager (Sandrine Bonnaire); Under the Sun of Satan (1987), a religious moral drama that won the Palme d'Or at Cannes; and Van Gogh (1991), a nearly three-hour look at the last year of the painter's life. A frequent collaborator with actors Gerard Depardieu and Sandrine Bonnaire, Pialat also worked as an actor in both his films and those of other directors.