Mizrahi, Moshe: Israeli Filmmaker and Oscar Winner (Madame Rosa, with Simone Signoret) Dies at 86

Israeli filmmaker Moshe Mizrahi, who co-wrote and directed three Oscar-nominated foreign-language films in the 1970s, including the winning Madame Rosa, starring Simone Signoret, has died. He was 86.

Mizrahi died Friday at Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Israel, suffering from severe pneumonia.

Mizrahi also was behind the Oscar nominees I Love You Rosa (1972) and The House on Chelouche Street (1973). Madame Rosa (1977), representing France, triumphed over his homeland’s nominee, Operation Thunderbolt, from writer-director Menahem Golan.

Based on French author Romain Gary’s The Life Before UsMadame Rosa stars Signoret as an elderly Jewish woman who survived Auschwitz and worked as a prostitute before running a Paris boarding home for the children of hookers and befriending a young Muslim Algerian boy.

The film’s awards campaign seemed to gain momentum from the Egypt-Israel peace talks being presided over by U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Born in 1931 in Alexandria, Egypt, Mizrahi immigrated to Mandatory Palestine at age 14, two years before the state of Israel was proclaimed, with his widowed mother and brother. Educated in a kibbutz, he immersed himself in a new culture and way of living.

Mizrahi moved to France in the 1950s and began a career as a film critic and translator while also working as a youth leader within the local branch of the Jewish Agency.

He worked for the French TV production company TeleFrance in several roles, gaining skills along the way, and he made his full-length feature directorial debut in 1970 with Les stances a Sophie (Sophie’s Ways).

That year, he also premiered the Israel-French co-production The Customer of the Off Season at the Berlin Film Festival; it went on to receive a Golden Globe nomination for foreign-language film.

I Love You Rosa starred ingenue Michal Bat-Adam, who went on to become not only his muse and star of future films but his wife. The couple’s only child, Daniel, was born in 1980.  She survives him.