Death of actor Michel Bouquet at the age of 96

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The famous actor is dead. In 2005, he received the César for best actor for his portrayal of François Mitterrand in The Walker of the Champ-de-Mars.

Actor Michel Bouquet, known for his roles in The Unfaithful Wife, Borsalino and The Walker of the Champ-de-Mars, died this Wednesday at the end of the morning at the age of 96, after a life devoted to the art of acting. The tireless actor, who had taken his first steps in the theater at the age of 19 in 1944, had waited until his ninety-fourth year to announce, after a 75-year career, that he would no longer be on stage.

This apprentice pastry chef who became a genius actor, follower of an often disturbing interiorized game, loved cinema and theater with the same passion: “I didn’t have a preference because the two things are very different but they have the same value”, he confided to AFP in 2019 when he bowed out.

“It is forgetting oneself that is the most important”, added this giant who preferred to disappear behind the roles: “I did what I could, as I could, and I did not asked too many questions. I made my merry way but without any intellectual pretensions.”

His theatrical career was remarkably consistent. Started in 1944 with The Tartuffe, it ended in 2017 with the same coin. In the meantime, he will have played in nearly 80 plays, with a predilection for Molière (Imaginary sick) and Eugene Ionesco (The King is dying), but also Anouilh, Pinter, Beckett and Camus.

Its course follows the history of the century. Born in 1925, he was destined for pastry when a “mysterious force” changed his destiny and pushed him “to strike on a Sunday morning [de 1943] at the door of a great theater teacher”, Maurice Escande, who took him under his wing and taught him everything, he said in The world in 2016. He entered the Conservatory where he met Gérard Philippe and became one of the most fashionable actors. In 1947, Bouquet participated in the Festival d’Avignon from its first edition but struggled to get along with the masters of the moment – Jean Vilar, Claude Régy and Roger Planchon.

Off the beaten track

In the cinema, he made his way into quality popular cinema and appeared in more than 65 films at the cinema and around fifty television films under the direction in particular of François Truffaut (The bride was in black), Jacques Deray (Borsalino), Jose Giovanni (Two men in the city), Henri Verneuil (The snake), Yves Boisset (A count), André Cayatte (Reason of State) and Alain Corneau (France Public limited company). He is one of Claude Chabrol’s favorite actors (The Unfaithful Wife, Chicken In Vinegar), in whom he embodies the prototype of the unsympathetic bourgeois:

“During the six films that I shot for him, I always tried to guess his point of view: what secrets could hide behind his desire to make such and such a film? Because he could well declare having written especially for me The Unfaithful WifeI personally did not feel anything in common with this character of bourgeois assassin …”, he told Télérama in 2010.

Often employed in the roles of notary, banker or policeman, he excelled in troubled characters. A familiar face in thrillers or political films of the 1970s, Michel Bouquet also lent his voice to several documentaries, including the famous Night and Fog by Alain Resnais in 1956.

Blessed with good comedic timing, Bouquet has also appeared in several comedies. Gangster dumbed down in Papa the little boats (1971) by Nelly Kaplan, it also lends itself to the extravagances of Michel Audiard in Good kisses… see you Monday (1974). In The toy (1976) by Francis Veber, he plays Pierre Rambal-Cochet, a ruthless billionaire who makes Pierre-Richard her son’s toy.

He doesn’t hesitate to slip off the beaten track and entrust his destiny to young directors. Pierre Zucca hired him to Vincent put the donkey in one meadow (and came to another) (1975), where Fabrice Lucchini also debuts. Bouquet befriends the director Edward Luntzauthor of several amazing films including Green Hearts have become untraceable. Bouquet nevertheless holds thanks to Luntz two of his best roles in The Last Jump (1970) and Wandering Mood (1972).

Bouquet en Mitterrand, a comedy lesson

The 1990s and 2000s saw him change register. Rarer, it delights with Chops of Bertrand Blier (at the theater in 1997, then at the cinema in 2003), then moved in The Walker of the Champ de Mars (2005) by Robert Guédiguian, which allowed him to win the César for best actor in 2006. At 80, he offers a lesson in comedy: without make-up or artifice of language, Michel Bouquet manages to revive former President François Mitterrand .

Six years later, the director Gilles Bourdos offers him with Renoir the role ‘that touched me the most in my life’, that of the august painter. A role that earned him a new César nomination, but did not mark the end of his film career. He notably accepts in 2019 Bernard Stora’s proposal to appear in a drama as he likes them, against a background of power struggle, Villa Capricewhose title now sounds like a final snub to the end he knew was near.

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