Pierre Schoendoerffer, 1928-2012

Pierre Schoendoerffer, the French filmmaker whose work was strongly influenced by his French military service in Indochina from 1951-54, died March 14 in a Paris hospital.  Schoendoerffer, who was wounded in the French Indochina War and later captured and held prisoner for four months by the Vietminh after the disastrous Battle of Dien Bien Phu, was 83. He is pictured above left, after his release.

Schoendoerffer wrote a novel, The 317th Platoon , about the French war, which he made into a film in 1965 that he wrote and directed. He is perhaps best known in this country for the 1967 documentary, The Anderson Platoon , a close-up, in-the-field look at U.S. Army Lt. Joe Anderson and his men slogging it out in the field in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. First shown on French TV, then on CBS-TV, the documentary played in theaters in this country and received the 1968 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

His other main film was 1992’s Dien Bien Phu, a critically acclaimed, fictionalized look at the battle that was filmed  in Vietnam (although not at the actual site of the battle) and featured the travails of an American war correspondent. The $30-million epic, which used 10, 000 Vietnamese soldiers as extras, was the first non-Asia movie to be made about the Indochina War in Vietnam.

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