'A magician of words, a giant of criticism': Former Observer film critic Philip French dies aged 82

Former Observer film critic Philip French died today aged 82.

French retired after 50 years at The Observer in 2013 but continued to write a weekly column for the paper.

His last piece, a review of a special edition DVD release of The Ladykillers, appeared in last Sunday’s paper.

In 2009 French won critic of the year at the Press Gazette British Press Awards. The judges said: “He weaves his impressive knowledge into each review and uses his 31 years experience as a full time critic to skilfully illuminate the films of today. Outstanding writing from a doyen of his craft".

Also in 2009, he was one of the high-profile Observer journalists to speak out against proposals to close the paper which were considered by the Scott Trust. He is pictured above speaking at a rally organised by Press Gazette.

French began his career as a reporter on the Bristol Evening Post. He began writing for The Observer in 1963 and joined the staff full time in 1978.

His son Sean is quoted in a Guardian tribute piece: “If readers felt they knew him it’s because he put his personality into the writing. He was a very funny man, with a slightly grim comic view of the world and this obsessive thing about puns.”

One of the lines of which French remained most proud, he recalled, was the opening line of an essay on British cinema and the Post Office: “I don’t know much about philately, but I know what I lick.”

Telegraph film critic Robbie Collin said on Twitter: “Philip French made his decades of erudition read as lightly as air. A magician of words, a giant of criticism, and an intensely lovely man."

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