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The bourgeois “are always amusing, and they can also be very mean, so it’s just marvelous,” he told “Mardi cinema” television program.

As a young man, he studied literature and law before writing movie reviews in the respected French film magazine Cahiers du cinema. He had not yet turned 30 when “Le Beau Serge,” the story of a man’s return to his native village after a long absence, was released to critical acclaim.

A bon vivant and longtime smoker, Mr. Chabrol rarely was seen without his trademark pipe or Cuban cigar — even on set. He was also a joker and liked to ham it up for the cameras, often making grimaces and funny faces while on the red carpet.

Mr. Chabrol also acted, making Hitchcock-style cameos in many of his own films, as well as those by other directors. He last appeared in this year’s “Gainsbourg,” playing a music producer in filmmaker Joann Sfar’s biopic about singer Serge Gainsbourg.

In 2004, he was awarded the European Film Award for the body of his work and a year later received a top honor from the Academie Francaise.

Mr. Chabrol was married three times and had three sons. Funeral arrangements were not immediately known.