Romanian film, theater director Liviu Ciulei dies

AP News
Posted: Oct 25, 2011 5:35 PM
Romanian film, theater director Liviu Ciulei dies

Liviu Ciulei, a Romanian film and theater director whose career spanned 50 years and included a top award at the Cannes Film Festival, has died. He was 88.

Ciulei _ who also served as the artistic director of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and taught at universities in New York _ died on Monday night at a hospital in Munich, the German city where he lived, said Romanian actor Ion Caramitru.

"An era has died! A genius had died!" said Caramitru, who heads Romania's UNITER theater union. "Without Liviu Ciulei, there would be no Romanian theater."

No cause of death was given.

As an actor, director and set designer, Ciulei was the most influential figure of Romanian theater and film in a generation. He won the Palme d'Or award at Cannes in 1965 for the film "The Forest of the Hanged," and he made more than 20 movies, both as an actor and a director.

Romanian President Traian Basescu paid homage to Ciulei on Tuesday, saying he belonged to an "elite generation" that created a "valuable and original" drama school, both in Romania and abroad. He called Ciulei's artistic vision "classic and modern, extremely clear and contemporary."

Actor Ken Ruta worked with Ciulei in several productions, and said the director was most passionate about the visual side of his work.

Ruta said Ciulei often chose a painter and sought to evoke his work in a particular production. When the pair worked on the Guthrie's 1981 production of "The Tempest" when Ciulei was artistic director there, it was Salvador Dali, Ruta said.

"Actors soon figured out he was more interested in the way things looked than the way they sounded," Ruta said via phone from a San Diego suburb. "He could spend hours on trying to get someone to lift their finger the right way and get this illusion."

Ciulei studied theater and architecture in Bucharest and began his acting career in 1946 as the character Puck in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." He began to direct in 1957.

For 10 years he was artistic director at Bucharest's prestigious Bulandra Theater.

From 1980 to 1985, he held the same position at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. In 1982, the theater received a Tony Award for its outstanding contribution to the American Theater. Ciulei drew national and international attention to the theater and its productions, the organization says on its website.

After that, Ciulei taught at Columbia University and New York University.

He is survived by his son, Thomas Ciulei, and wife, Helga Reiter-Ciulei.


Associated Press Writer Doug Glass contributed to this report from Minneapolis, Minnesota.