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TOUGH, TENDER & TRES TERRIFIQUE!

New Yorkers recently had the privilege of viewing many of Gerard Depardieu's most compelling performances. All of the text below is courtesy of The Film Society of Lincoln Center, sponsor of the mini-festival. To read Diane Baroni’s 1991 interview with Gerard Depardieu, click here.


With a 20-film tribute at the Walter Reade Theater titled Tough and Tender: The Films of Gérard Depardieu, the Film Society of Lincoln Center will honor one of the cinema’s natural-born talents, Aug. 3-19. Several of the finest performances from the inexhaustible French actor’s nearly 170 film and television roles are included in the series, including his Academy Award®-nominated turn as the literary hero Cyrano de Bergerac, his breakout work in Bertrand Blier’s Going Places (1974) and his acclaimed collaborations with directors Alain Resnais, François Truffaut, Maurice Pialat, André Téchiné, Marguerite Duras and more.


“Depardieu’s to European cinema in the ‘70s what Brando was to American cinema in the ‘50s,” says Kent Jones, associate director of programming at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. “He was able to connect to and represent the whole gamut of European males: tough guy, stud, intellectual, bourgeois, anarchic rebel, hedonist. In addition to that, he was an absolutely emblematic figure in American moviegoing. If you were in any way adventurous in your tastes in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, you would have seen him. So, doing this series now is not just saluting him, its saluting an era of moviegoing.”

 

BAROCCO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


André Téchiné, France, 1976; 110m
Fri Aug 3: 9:00pm; Wed Aug 8: 6:15pm

André Téchiné’s third feature is a deliriously cinephilic concoction set in Amsterdam in some indeterminate dreamlike future––the film that paved the way for Diva, as well as Luc Besson and Leos Carax’s first films. Depardieu plays the dual role of Samson, a boxer who conspires with his girl (Isabelle Adjani) to throw a fight and clean up on the betting, and the man who kills him. Téchiné’s exploratory art didn’t really jibe with this kind of extreme visual stylization, but the film is ravishing in any event, shot in glowing tones by the great Bruno Nuytten. With Marie-France Pisier and Jean-Claude Brialy.

BUFFET FROID

Bertrand Blier, France, 1979; 89m
Wed Aug 8: 8:30pm; Fri Aug 10: 6:15pm; Sat Aug 11: 2:00pm

In Bertrand Blier’s shaggy pitch-black comedy with futuristic tinges, an out-of-work philosopher (Depardieu) finds himself living out a series of misadventures, beginning with a homicidal encounter on a métro platform (with an unbilled Michel Serrault). Depardieu––“the most engagingly ambivalent presence in modern cinema,” says Vincent Canby––is virtually the only actor who could have given life to this character, stumbling through a dark, absurdist universe populated by the likes of Bernard Blier (the director’s father, who has an unusually measured take on the dangers of criminals on the loose) and Jean Carmet as a withdrawn murderer. This is Blier in severe Buñuelian mode. The humor is dark and despairing, but the film is hilarious.

LE CAMION

Marguerite Duras, France, 1977; 80m
Sat Aug 4: 4:15pm; Mon Aug 6: 8:30pm

A filmmaker (Duras) reads aloud the script for the movie she wants to make with her lead actor (Depardieu). They are the only two people onscreen, sitting at a table––the aging mandarin and the louche young sensualist. Their scenes alternate with beautiful images of the eponymous five-axle truck itself rolling across the desolately beautiful countryside outside Paris. But this film-about-a-film is only a device; the real subject is its author and her aching desire, which she transmits to her creations. “Pialat is a painter. Truffaut is a novelist. Bergman is a musician. Duras is silence,” observed Depardieu, of the woman whose self-proclaimed intention was “to murder cinema” whenever she made a film (and who basically sent him on the road to stardom with Nathalie Granger). Paradoxically, she created great cinema in the process. “After seeing her work,” wrote Duras admirer John Waters, “I think I know what it must feel like to be hypnotized.”

CHANGING TIMES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


André Téchiné, France, 2004; 90m
Sat Aug 18: 2:00pm; Sun Aug 19: 8:15pm

Depardieu plays Antoine, an engineer sent to Tangiers to oversee the construction of a major new television facility. His real reason for going is to re-establish contact with Cécile (Catherine Deneuve), a woman he loved and lost 30 years before. But Cécile has created her own undemanding arrangement with her Moroccan husband Nathan (Gilbert Melki). Meanwhile, Cécile’s son Sami (Malik Zidi) returns home from Paris to see his boyfriend Bilal (Nadem Rachati). Sami’s friend Nadia (Lubna Azabal), a single mother, tags along to see Aïcha (Azabal), her twin sister, a devout Muslim who does not approve of Nadia’s fringe lifestyle. André Téchiné allows each actor the space to fully explore the film’s many dilemmas, carefully delineating the difficult process that will lead each to a life-changing leap of faith.

COLONEL CHABERT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yves Angelo, France, 1994; 110m
Sat Aug 18: 8:45pm; Sun Aug 19: 4:00pm

Cinematographer Yves Angelo made his directorial debut with this beautifully rendered adaptation of Balzac’s novel about a French officer (Depardieu) given up for dead on a battlefield during the Napoleonic wars, who returns to Paris to find his wife (Fanny Ardant) remarried to a spendthrift count (Resnais regular André Dussollier). Historian Simon Schama considers Colonel Chabert one of his favorite historical adaptations. Just as in Angelo’s recent Les Ames Grises, the period comes to vivid life in the careful eye for detail and the nicely imagined sense of the way people move and how things felt in the world of 19th-century Paris. With Fabrice Luchini as Chabert’s tough lawyer.

CYRANO DE BERGERAC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Paul Rappeneau, France, 1990; 137m
Fri Aug 17: 3:45pm; Sat Aug 18: 4:00pm

In this old and enduringly resonant love story, beautifully adapted from Rostand’s classic by director Jean-Paul Rappeneau and writer Jean-Claude Carrière and just as beautifully shot by the great Pierre Lhomme, Anne Brochet is Roxane, Vincent Perez is the bumbling Christian, and Depardieu is, of course, the majestic hero. “What other actor would have had the courage to go with such determination so far over the top....Only Depardieu could deliver a dying speech that rises and falls with pathos and defiance, only to end with the assertion that when he is gone, he will be remembered for...what? His heart? Courage? Nothing half so commonplace: For his panache.”––Roger Ebert

DANTON

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Andrzej Wajda, France/Poland, 1983; 136m
Sat Aug 4: 6:00pm; Aug 12: 1:00pm

Danton, like Andrzej Wajda’s prior work Man of Iron, was as much an event as a film when it was originally released in 1983. A Franco-Polish co-production with Depardieu as a deeply memorable Danton and the great Polish actor Wojciech Pszoniak as a frighteningly believable Robespierre, Wajda used the French Revolution to let us draw whatever parallels we wished between Danton and Lech Walesa, Robespierre and Stalin. Today, it stands as a peak for director and actor. “A major work from a major film maker.”––Vincent Canby

LE GARCU

Maurice Pialat, France, 1995; 102m
Wed Aug 15: 6:30pm; Sat Aug 18: 6:30pm

Depardieu, in one of his greatest performances, plays Gerard, a successful professional with an ex-wife, wife, and current mistress all in uneasy orbit. But most of his emotional life and energy is lavished on Antoine (Antoine Pialat, the director’s young son), his 4-year-old son by current wife Sophie (Géraldine Pailhas), with whom he seems incapable of achieving the kind of bond he desperately craves. This was Maurice Pialat’s last film, and one of his most deeply personal. The scenes between Antoine and his father are eloquently simple and wondrously moving, harmonious expressions of a father’s love for his child (both fathers, onscreen and off) and gentle awe in the face of youth.

GET OUT YOUR HANDKERCHIEFS/PREPAREZ VOS MOUCHOIRS

Bertrand Blier, France/Belgium, 1978; 108m
Sat Aug 4: 2:00pm; Fri Aug 10: 8:15pm

Raoul (Depardieu) will do anything to make his wife (Carole Laure) happy—which includes finding a potential lover (the late Patrick Dewaere, Depardieu’s old buddy) to lift her out of depression. Following the daft logic of classic farce, Handkerchiefs is, like all of Blier’s greatest films, part love story, part buddy movie, and all surprising. “The satire rebounds on the male point of view, as the female remains loomingly and frighteningly a thing apart."--Dave Kehr


GOING PLACES/LES VALSEUSES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bertrand Blier, France, 1974; 117m
Fri Aug 3: 6:30pm

Depardieu and his real-life pal Patrick Dewaere took the film world by storm with this outrageous film, in which they’re virtually catapulted onto the screen with the opening shot. Going Places is the frolicsome American title, but the French title, Les Valseuses (roughly translated as “the loafers”) is more like it––two smiling lummoxes with time on their hands and nothing on their minds but satisfying every immediate need and seducing every woman in sight, or, when there are no women around, each other. A “hymn” to pure anarchy, with a purely anarchic point of view: the director, Bertrand Blier, suppresses any point of view––moral or otherwise––toward his two antiheroes, as they pillage and plunder their way across France. His film floats on their restless energy. With Miou-Miou, Jeanne Moreau and, in the role that made her a star, a very young and incredibly alluring Isabelle Huppert.


I WANT TO GO HOME/JE VEUX RENTRER A LA MAISON

Alain Resnais, France, 1989; 100m
Sun Aug 12: 3:45pm; Mon Aug 13: 8:30pm

Cleveland cartoonist Joey Wellman (Adolph Green) accepts an invitation to show his work at an exclusive Parisian gallery. He suffers the pains of travel to a foreign country in hopes of reconciling with his estranged daughter Elsie (Laura Benson), who is trying her best to rid herself of her American provinciality and become French. Her father’s greatest admirer, intellectual Christian Gauthier (Depardieu), is the figure she emulates. This odd comedy of cultural misalliances, written by cartoonist Jules Feiffer and scored by John Kander (Cabaret) features a beautifully spirited performance by Green, and a charming one by Depardieu. Like all of Resnais’ films, a funny, mental, and soulful mechanism unites the characters: in this case, an animated cat, Joey’s trademark cartoon character.

THE LAST METRO/LE DERNIER METRO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

François Truffaut, France, 1980; 131m
Sat Aug 11: 8:10pm; Sun Aug 12: 5:45pm; Tue Aug 14: 1:30pm

Truffaut’s stirring tribute to the resistance and to the theater, set in Paris in 1942. Marion Steiner (Catherine Deneuve at her most majestic) takes over the theater managed by her German-Jewish husband (Heinz Bennent) after he has supposedly left for South America. Depardieu is one of the company’s stars, a tough resistance fighter, and, in the service of multiple causes, a love interest. The ever-shifting flux of art and life is as deftly managed here as it was by Renoir in The Golden Coach––but then, this is also one of Truffaut’s most Hitchcockian movies. He does both of his masters proud. With Jean-Louis Richard as the notorious collaborationist theater critic Daxiat. Beautifully shot by Nestor Almendros and lushly scored by Georges Delerue.

LOULOU

Maurice Pialat, France, 1980; 101m
Sat Aug 11: 4:00pm; Sun Aug 12: 8:30pm; Mon Aug 13: 4:00pm

Finally able to work with Gerard Depardieu—to whom he had originally offered the lead in The Mouth Agape—Maurice Pialat fashions together with scenarist Arlette Langmann an unsettling tale of physical and emotional obsession. Nelly (Isabelle Huppert, in one of her greatest roles) walks out on her husband after meeting a rakish, leather-clad lout known as Loulou (Depardieu). The husband, André (Guy Marchand), struggles to cope with her departure, while trying to understand what she can see in a man who seems to care so little for her. “To see [Loulou] again is to realize how few filmmakers in the intervening years have even attempted to chart the vast intricacies, the sparks and the synapses of sexual passion and the particular nature of women’s desire….Pialat remains one of a handful of directors genuinely interested in and capable of getting inside a woman’s head and projecting her desires onscreen.”––Molly Haskell

MAITRESSE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barbet Schroeder, Australia, 1976; 112m
Sat Aug 4: 8:45pm; Mon Aug 6: 6:15pm

Bulle Ogier is a professional maîtresse, or dominatrix, with whom Depardieu (at his most innocently beautiful) carries on an increasingly perilous love affair. Critic Tom Milne wrote that “Schroeder’s classic of underground love sits well alongside the masochistic Last Tango in Paris….The whole thing is lent more than a little frission from the knowledge that some of Ogier’s clients were real. A wickedly funny fable on the more demanding side of love.” Shot by the great Nestor Almendros, who offers a welcome description of the film’s elaborate opening shot in his indispensable memoir, A Man with a Camera.


MON ONCLE D'AMERIQUE

Alain Resnais, France, 1980; 125m
Tue Aug 14: 6:30pm; Wed Aug 15: 4:15pm; Fri Aug 17: 8:45pm

One of Resnais’ most playful films (and one of his biggest hits), Mon Oncle d’Amérique offers the director’s version of what it is to be human. Behaviorist Henri Laborit appears as himself and his comments on motivation, anxiety and role models are interspersed with key moments in the lives of a technical manager in the middle of a downsizing panic (Depardieu, in one of his greatest and most delicate performances), an actress in the midst of a life crisis (Nicole Garcia), and a writer/politician (Roger Pierre). Somehow, at the heart of life is the elusive dream of being elsewhere, delivered from the pressures of existence by a sudden inheritance from the mythical American uncle of the title. Resnais and screenwriter Jean Gruault “manage to convey a dense, multilayered narrative with remarkable ease and simplicity,” wrote Jonathan Rosenbaum of this brilliant film, one of the best of the ‘80s. “The film is also memorable for its dead-on portrayal of French yuppiedom in its early ascendancy.”

POLICE

Maurice Pialat, France, 1985; 113m
Tue Aug 14: 4:15pm and 9:00pm; Wed Aug 15: 2:00pm

On the surface, Maurice Pialat’s tensely exciting movie is a police procedural about a widowed Paris cop (Depardieu) breaking up a North African drug ring. But Pialat, who combines a ferocious rawness with perfect formal control, goes further than any other filmmaker in establishing the policeman’s physical, moral and emotional intimacy with the criminals he interrogates and brutalizes. As the cynical cop, Depardieu has never been more vital or soulful: when he falls for the duplicitous but achingly beautiful dealer Noria (Sophie Marceau), he’s like a wounded animal. A film of real daring and power, for which Depardieu won a well-deserved acting prize at the 1985 Venice Film Festival.

TOO BEAUTIFUL FOR YOU/TROP BELLE POUR TOI

Bertrand Blier, France, 1989; 91m
Wed Aug 15: 8:45pm; Sun Aug 19: 2:00pm

Combining elements of fantasy and comedy, structured in the splintered manner of early Resnais, Bertrand Blier’s romance stars Depardieu as a businessman married to the beautiful Florence (Carole Bouquet) who unexpectedly falls in love with the overweight and radiantly ordinary Colette (Josiane Balasko), an office temp whom he’d like to make a permanent fixture in his life. “Depardieu is one of the most endlessly fascinating actors of our time….Here he plays just an ordinary man––one of the most difficult roles in the movies. He makes his passion believable because he never overacts it, and because the movie conveys it mostly through the eyes of the actress Balasko.”––Roger Ebert

TOUS LES MATINS DU MONDE

Alain Corneau, France, 1991; 115m
Thu Aug 16: 3:45pm; Fri Aug 17: 1:30pm and 6:30pm

Alain Corneau’s film is a rapturous embrace of the music and what we know of the life of the great 17th- and 18th-century French bass viol player and composer, Marin Marais. Depardieu is riveting as Marais (his son Guillaume plays the young Marais), and Jean-Pierre Marielle brings true gravity to the role of Marais’ teacher, Saint-Colombe, who shut himself into his home and dedicated his life to his music after the death of his wife. It’s a film with a true understanding of the transcendental power of art, rivaling the Straubs’ The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach in the portrayal of the all-consuming passion of music making. Majestically shot by Yves Angelo.

THE WOMAN NEXT DOOR/LA FEMME D'A COTE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

François Truffaut, France, 1981; 106m
Sat Aug 11: 6:00pm; Mon Aug 13: 1:45pm and 6:15pm

After a stormy affair, Bernard (Depardieu) and Mathilde (Fanny Ardant) decide to split. Eight years later, after they’ve both married others, a chance encounter forces them to realize that they remain bound to one another, and that they always will be. This is Truffaut’s last great film, and one of his finest, a Jamesian tale of ordinary madness and spiraling obsession which builds to a remarkable, heart-stopping, but inevitable climax. “It is the exhilarating talent of this filmmaker [Truffaut] to be able to define the commonplace in a manner that is not at all commonplace, and thus to find—and appreciate—the mystery within,” wrote Vincent Canby. “Mr. Depardieu is not only the busiest French actor alive at the moment, he also must be the most compelling.”

UNDER SATAN'S SUN/SOUS LE SOLEIL DE SATAN

Maurice Pialat, France, 1987; 93m
Thu Aug 16: 1:45pm and 6:00pm; Sun Aug 19: 6:15pm

Under Satan’s Sun is Maurice Pialat’s rigorously intense adaptation of Georges Bernanos’ novel. When the director mounted the stage to accept the Palme d’Or at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival, he was greeted with boos and whistles. His response to the crowd? “I don’t like you either.” Janet Maslin, writing in the New York Times during the film’s showing at The 1987 New York Film Festival, reflected the Cannes jury’s opinion: “The miraculous, the visionary and the diabolical fuse here in a film that grapples simply and powerfully with the unknown....It’s a work of great subtlety, some difficulty and tremendous assurance, one that demands and deserves close attention.” A tough film, but a rewarding one, possessed of an almost supernatural intensity: Depardieu is nothing short of astonishing as the priest who sacrifices his spirit, his health and even his faith itself to his commitment to God. And the young Sandrine Bonnaire is absolutely frightening as the doomed Mouchette.