Death of Michel Bouquet, sacred monster of the theater and legend of French cinema, Caesarized…

Comedian Michel Bouquet has died at the age of 96. He was the holder of two Césars for Best Actor, including one for his performance as “President” in “Le Promeneur du champ de Mars”.

Death of michel bouquet, sacred monster of the theater and legend of french cinema, caesarized...
COADIC GUIREC / BESTIMAGE

Michel Bouquet died at the age of 96. A man of the theater who was on stage until the age of 91, he was the holder of two Césars for Le promeneur du Champ de Mars (2005) and How I killed my father (2001). He had describe his love of acting as “a vocation that never leaves you”.

Meeting with Jean Anouilh

At the age of 7, Michel Bouquet is sent with his three brothers to boarding school, a painful experience for this reserved child who has to face the cruelty of his congeners. While his father was made a prisoner of war, he then went through small jobs: apprentice pastry chef, dental technician, handler. One Sunday morning, when his mother believed him to be at mass, he went to see Maurice Escande, a member of the Comédie-Française, who offered him to take his lessons. Entering the Conservatory in the company of Gérard Philipe, he soon became Jean Anouilh’s favorite actor.

From “dad’s cinema” to the New Wave

A great theater actor, Michel Bouquet made his first screen appearance in 1947 in Criminal Brigade. Very early directed by prestigious filmmakers (Clouzot, Gance or Grémillon), it will however have to wait until the mid-1960s to impose itself on the cinema. His taste for ambiguity and his austere air make him an ideal actor to play the disturbing bourgeois at Chabrol, with whom a long complicity is forged (The Unfaithful Woman in 1968, Chicken in Vinegar). Another New Wave director, Truffaut will shoot him twice: The Bride Was in Black in 1967, then La Sirene du Mississippi. Subscriber to the roles of bastards, the actor embodies a ruthless commissioner in Two men in the city, a formidable boss in The Toy, Veber’s first comedy, or Javert in Les Misérables by Hossein in 1981.

Two Caesars in three years!

Michel Bouquet, who has always confided that he prefers theater to cinema, becomes rarer on the screens from the 90s. His compositions, of infinite subtlety, are all the more striking: old man who reinvents his existence in the daring Toto le heros, first opus of the Belgian Jaco van Dormael in 1990, he is the unworthy father of Charles Berling in how i killed my father by Anne Fontaine, a chilling composition that earned him the César for Best Actor in 2002. After uttering with relish (on the boards then in front of a camera) Bertrand Blier’s insolent author’s words in Les Côtelettes, he plays François Mitterrand in the evening of his life The Walker of the Champ de Mars de Guédiguian, with a mimicry that will disturb even those close to the former president. We can no longer be in good shape at 85, he delivers a strong interpretation of a man of character who does not want to die, and who wants to remain independent despite his failing health in La Petite Chambre, a Franco-Swiss co-production.

Renoir, Molière and Clemenceau

In 2012, he returned to the cinema to play Auguste Renoir in front of the camera of Gilles Bourdos, at a stage in his life when the painter was at his lowest morally, until he met Andrée Heuschling (Christa Théret), who would become his model. He also embodies another figure, George Clémenceau for the time of a documentary. At the same time, Bouquet pursues theater on stage with Rightly and wrongly (2015-2016) and The Tartuffe in 2017 at age 92. He appeared one last time at the cinema in 2016 in L’Origine de la violence by Elie Chouraqui, to resume a role of patriarch initially planned for Michel Galabru, then, five years later, in the thriller Villa Caprice.

In “Le promeneur du champ de Mars”, which won him a César for Best Actor:

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