Louis Malle, 63, the veteran French director whose films were revered and reviled for exploring taboos such as incest, child prostitution and his countrymen's collaboration with the Nazis, died Nov. 23 at the Beverly Hills, Calif., home he shared with his wife, actress Candice Bergen. He had lymphoma.
Mr. Malle's early work predated the beginning of the nouvelle vague, or new wave, of film from Europe, a movement that helped inject large doses of reality into the movies being made in Hollywood. "I like for spectators to be disturbed," Mr. Malle said late in his career.
It was a career that spanned more than four decades and included erotic thrillers, a spoof Western, absurdist comedies and other groundbreaking films. Among his best-known works were "Au Revoir les Enfants," "Atlantic City," "Lacombe, Lucien," "Pretty Baby," "My Dinner With Andre" and "Murmur of the Heart."
He also acted in films and wrote for them, winning an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for "Murmur of the Heart," a 1971 coming-of-age story about a French adolescent's sexual initiation by his mother. The film was described at the time as the first screen portrayal of incest unpunished, an Oedipus tale comfortably readapted for the age of permissiveness. Yet the story was told in a humorous and tactful way, in the manner of a Mozart opera, one writer observed.
"Au Revoir les Enfants," one of his most acclaimed films, told a story Mr. Malle had held locked in his memory for many decades, of seeing a Jewish classmate at boarding school taken away by Nazis to die in a concentration camp during World War II.
"This was, for me, by far the strongest impression of my childhood, the one that remains above all the others in vividness," he said in 1988.
Mr. Malle focused on the wartime collaboration theme in the earlier "Lacombe, Lucien," about a peasant boy who sides with Fascist authorities. It helped dispel a national myth that ordinary people had worked with the Resistance and sparked a debate about that period.
"Atlantic City" featured Burt Lancaster in 1980 as a has-been gangster opposite Susan Sarandon. It was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. Mr. Malle's controversial erotic dramas included 1959's "The Lovers" with Jeanne Moreau, then starting her career, and 1992's "Damage," starring Jeremy Irons, about a stiff British politician's obsession with his son's fiancee.
Mr. Malle's first American film, set in World War I-era New Orleans, was "Pretty Baby," which debuted the pubescent model Brooke Shields and enflamed censors.
"I'm a filmmaker, not a sociologist," he said about the film, which was inspired by the life of photographer E.J. Bellocq, who photographed New Orleans's brothels. "I was simply very, very interested in the story."
Mr. Malle's 25th and last film, "Vanya on 42nd Street," released last year, focused on a rehearsal of Anton Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" at a New York theater. The actors wore street clothes, and their conversations between scenes shifted into dialogue from the play.
In all, Mr. Malle's works received dozens of honors at film festivals and awards ceremonies.
The director was born in the northern French town of Thumeries into a wealthy family of sugar producers. He studied economics and political science at the University of Paris and filmmaking at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Cinematographiques. But short of receiving a degree, he went to work for undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau. Mr. Malle was an assistant on Cousteau's ship, Calypso, from 1953 to 1955 and was put in charge of filmmaking.
The initial Cousteau-Malle collaboration, "Le Monde du Silence" ("The Silent World"), won a Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival in 1956.
After that, Mr. Malle worked with legendary filmmaker Robert Bresson and briefly was a correspondent for French television in Algeria, Vietnam and Thailand.
Mr. Malle, a small, trim, dark-eyed man with wavy hair, was described by interviewers as nervous, intense and restless. He said he liked to reinvent himself periodically, to start over from a new perspective.
He arrived at the first of these crossroads in the 1960s, when he took a film crew to India to document life there. The result was a seven-part television series for the BBC, "Phantom India," which Washington Post critic Gary Arnold called "one of the greatest documentaries ever made."
He said Mr. Malle's portrait of the "vast, complex, contradictory land" evoked combinations of fascination and revulsion, compassion and alienation. Every few minutes, the film "presented images of astonishing beauty or terror mystery," Arnold said. It was banned in India for its frank portrayal of the country.
Mr. Malle's first marriage, to Anne-Marie Deschodt, ended in divorce in 1967. In 1980 he married Bergen, who later gained sitcom television fame as the aggressive TV reporter Murphy Brown. Mr. Malle played himself in a recent cameo appearance on the show, saying of the Bergen character: "I pity the man who has to live with her."
The couple had an intercontinental marriage, with Mr. Malle spending seven months of the year in France away from the family home in Los Angeles but returning once a month.
"That's the one downside to all this -- Louis' commute," Bergen once told an interviewer. "It just wipes him out. I feel guilty and responsible for his exhaustion."
Mr. Malle underwent open-heart surgery three years ago during the production of "Damaged."
In addition to Bergen and their daughter, Chloe, Mr. Malle is survived by two other children. ANNE HOBBS BETTS Recreation Specialist
Anne Hobbs Betts, 73, an Army Department recreation specialist who retired in 1983 after 30 years at Fort Belvoir, died of cancer Nov. 20 at Sibley Memorial Hospital. A resident of the Knollwood retirement facility in Washington, she had lived in the area off and on since childhood.
Miss Betts was born in Fort Benning, Ga. She was a graduate of Stephens College and Cornell University. She was a dietitian at the National Geographic Society in the 1940s and a recreation specialist in the late 1940s and early 1950s with the American Red Cross in England, France and Germany. She joined the special services division of the Army in 1953.
Miss Betts was a founding volunteer of the history and education center at the American Red Cross headquarters, where she organized and catalogued the collection of historical insignia. She was national treasurer of the American Red Cross Overseas Association and a member of the Association of Military Insignia Collectors.
She leaves no immediate survivors. CAPTION: Louis Malle directs actor Burt Lancaster in 1980's "Atlantic City," which was nominated for five Oscars. The director made 25 films in his career.