The dramatic presentation of friendship, betrayal and guilt is considered Malle's finest and most personal film.
In an earlier film, "Lacombe, Lucien," in 1974, Malle was the first to break the unwritten national taboo on any examination of French collaboration with the Nazi occupiers.
Malle, the son of a wealthy French industrialist and a sugar heiress, was part Jewish, the Los Angeles Times reported.
He came to the United States in 1975, eventually marrying actress Candice Bergen, the star of television's "Murphy Brown."
Malle, who never won an Academy Award, was associated with more than 100 films, including "Silent World," "Pretty Baby" and "Damage."