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From The Unfaithful Woman to Renoir, the brilliant rectitude of Michel Bouquet in the cinema


Clouzot, Truffaut, Chabrol, Boisset, Hossein, Verneuil, Blier, Guédiguian, Fontaine… The greatest filmmakers, in more than a hundred films, have engraved on film the singular presence of the great man of the theatre.

The most difficult compositions never put him off. Huge on the trestles, Michel Bouquet will have marked the seventh art with his genius. He embodied with a fair economy of gestures and with measured steps characters whose rectitude could seem almost frightening: an implacable Inspector Javert in Wretched of Robert Hossein, a lawyer corrupted by the underworld in Borsalino of Jacques Deray, a deceived man who becomes the assassin of Maurice Ronet in The Unfaithful Wife of Claude Chabrol, an obstinate private detective killed by Jean-Paul Belmondo in The Mississippi Mermaid of François Truffaut, a vengeful cop in A count by Yves Boisset…

If he did not hesitate to admit that he preferred the stage to the cinema, Michel Bouquet will have nevertheless shot in more than a hundred films, winning two César for how i killed my father (2002) and The Champ-de-Mars walker (2006).

Michel Bouquet began in the cinema with suspicion, until Jean Grémillon offered him a role written by Jean Anouilh in White Paws in 1948. He played Maurice, a young marginal who uses his lover, Suzy Delair, to get revenge on his half-brother. With his thin figure, his dark eyes and his tortured game, he burst the screen. In Actor’s memoryhe says to himself “dazzledby Jean Grémillon without whom he would never have pursued the adventure of cinema. Michel Bouquet has never forgotten: “He had a phenomenal knowledge of history, (…) dared striking syntheses with an evocative power worthy of Shakespeare (…). I was twenty years old. I was almost illiterate. Frequenting Jean Grémillon was a decisive trigger. I said to myself: ”now you have to cultivate yourself (..) that you try to be less stupid, to understand the world too!”»

Of The Mississippi Mermaid from François Truffaut to The unfaithful wife by Claude Chabrol, A Conde by Yves Boisset and Two Men in the City from José Giovanni with Jean Gabin and Alain Delon to Champ de Mars walker by Robert Guédiguian, in homage to Michel Bouquet, one of the greatest but also one of the most modest actors of French cinema, Le Figaro presents in images the anthology of an exceptional career.

The Mississippi Mermaid by François Truffaut in 1969, with Jean-Paul Belmondo, Catherine Deneuve, Michel Bouquet…

The Unfaithful Wife by Claude Chabrol, in 1968, with Stéphane Audran, Michel Bouquet, Maurice Ronet…
With Claude Chabrol, whom he considered “revealing sound», Michel Bouquet shot six films. In The unfaithful wifewritten especially for him, he plays the bourgeois assassin and becomes the archetype of the Chabrolian hero. “In a way, he was playing for me, manipulating me. But admirably. That’s a great acting director! Just with his camera, he brought intensity to my interpretation.he confided about the director who became his friend.

Borsalino by Jacques Deray in 1970, with Alain Delon, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Michel Bouquet, Catherine Rouvel…

A count by Yves Boisset in 1970, with Michel Bouquet, Françoise Fabian, Henri Garcin, Michel Constantin…

Two Men in the City by José Giovanni in 1973, with Jean Gabin, Alain Delon, Michel Bouquet…

Wretched by Robert Hossein in 1982, with Lino Ventura, Michel Bouquet, Jean Carmet…
In Wretched by Robert Hossein, he is Inspector Javert, the sleuth that Victor Hugo compares to a police dog who tirelessly pursues Jean Valjean, his prey. “I don’t have Javert’s skinhe defended himself to the director in 1982. But he fought for me to do it and by doing it, I got used to it (…). In the end, he may have been right to ask me. But it’s not a role that I particularly like.“.

Toto the hero by Jaco Van Dormael in 1991, with Michel Bouquet, Jo De Backer, Thomas Godet…
The Belgian director Jaco Van Dormael offers him a role of grandiose failure in Toto the hero, César for the best foreign film in 1992. He plays Thomas, a retired surveyor, convinced of having been exchanged for maternity with Alfred, his childhood neighbor, raised in a well-to-do family. Trapped in this fantasy of a stolen existence, Toto, an unrepentant dreamer, misses out on his life.

how i killed my father by Anne Fontaine, in 2000, with Michel Bouquet, Charles Berling, Natacha Régnier…
It is “thanks to Anne Fontaine”the only woman to have directed it, whom Michel Bouquet confided to having finally understood cinema. “Did it take a woman to get this delivery from a 75-year-old actor?” he said. In how i killed my fatherhe plays a doctor who reappears in the life of his son (Charles Berling) thirty years after having abandoned his family to treat the sick in Africa.
Without any sentimentality, the film deciphers the tragic lack of relationship between the two men. Both a real father and a fantasy father, Michel Bouquet is at the top of his game.

The Walker of the Champ de Mars by Robert Guédiguian, in 2005, with Michel Bouquet, Jalil Lespert, Sarah Grappin…
In The Champ-de-Mars walker by Robert Guédiguian, he embodies François Mitterrand, “fallen into absolute lonelinesstwo years before dying of cancer. “There is a novel character in Mitterrand“explained the actor. “If the film is a fiction on Mitterrand, it is also a document on the art of Michel Bouquet», affirmed Robert Guédiguian. And to add:If it hadn’t been for Michel Bouquet, I don’t think I would have made the film. Michel Bouquet has a natural theatricality (…) For this role, he needed a majesty (…)“.

Renoir by Gilles Bourdos, in 2014, with Michel Bouquet, Christa Théret and Vincent Rottiers.

As soon as he saw that a film was not going to be cinema, Michel Bouquet gave up committing to the project. He had agreed to play Edmond Renoir in Renoir. Because he loved the screenplay by Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond. The film, certainly a little academic, subtly intertwines the story of the father, a painter, in the evening of his life, and the son, a filmmaker in the making (played by Vincent Rottiers), against the backdrop of the 14-18 war. Bouquet loved playing Renoir, for his paradox: a painter of happiness that was only suffering. And also, because he admired that the artist is always in pure emotion. And above all, like him, that he follow his line and that nothing, and especially not the spirit of the times, make him deviate from it.

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