Tremendous Michel Piccoli, a marvelous actor, free-spirited and capable of working across disciplines, open to cinema, both French and international, and every kind of cinematic adventure.
He acted every role and tried his hand at everything, putting himself at the service of others: from Luis Buñuel to Marco Ferreri, Jean-Luc Godard to Claude Sautet, Marco Bellocchio to Manoel De Oliveira, and including Youssef Chahine, Yves Boisset, Claude Chabrol, Claude Lelouch, Jacques Rouffio, Alain Cavalier, Francis Girod, Jacques Rivette, Michel Deville, Jacques Doillon, Agnès Varda, and Jacques Demy, among others. He was capable of slipping, with majesty and humility, into the gazes of other people to whom he brought his liberty, curiosity, openness, and his taste for the most daring artistic adventures. Blow Out's reception at the Festival de Cannes in 1973 remains one of the biggest film scandals of the post-war era. Piccoli and his pals Mastroianni, Tognazzi, and Noiret, not forgetting Andréa Ferréol, were eager to join forces with their mentor, Marco Ferreri, to masterfully take on this unforgettable and profound, iconoclastic and visionary film.
Michel Piccoli placed his artistic freedom above all else. He was neither quiet nor bourgeois, loving to explore worlds, those of others, filmmakers and playwrights (Patrice Chéreau, Luc Bondy, among others), who were intrigued to enlist him in their world tour. He was an actor who, more than others, traveled extensively in the cinema of the world, out of curiosity, camaraderie, a taste for acting, and not for "I": Piccoli was never narcissistic, he liked more than others to "be part of the troupe", a lesson no doubt drawn from his experience with Jean Renoir in French Cancan. This was at a time he was playing supporting roles, both in the cinema and the theater, before the public finally discovered him in Contempt in 1963, when he was approaching forty. It must be said that Michel Piccoli was never a "juvenile lead," knowing how to bide his time and accepting minor roles, for Jean-Pierre Melville (Doulos: The Finger Man) and Costa Gavras (The Sleeping Car Murders), to mention just two directors. His character of Paul in Contempt, a screenwriter married to the sublime Camille (Brigitte Bardot), not knowing exactly what he has come to do in this American adaptation of The Odyssey, shooting at Cinecittà's studios in Rome, then in Malaparte's house by the sea, forever engraved on the screen the image of a nonchalant and hat-wearing man, in reference to Dean Martin's character in Vincente Minnelli's Some Came Running. Godard had the genius to create and capture this image of Michel Piccoli, and this role spurred the second half of his magnificent career. Marcel Bluwal's Dom Juan, made for television in 1965, set in stone another image of Piccoli, that of a libertine with perfect diction and natural elegance. An image that can be found in films by Buñuel, Michel Deville, and Pierre Granier-Deferre (Piccoli is stunning in Strange Affair, a film from 1981). At once familiar and disturbing, sovereign and domineering. We should evoke his voice, unique and deep, resonating far. An unforgettable voice, one of the most beautiful in cinema. His anger too, in films by his friend Sautet. One day I experienced one his outbursts, more powerful than a thunderbolt, when he was president of the Premier Siècle du Cinéma association, which I ran with Alain Crombecque. We should also mention the films he directed, moving late in his career to the other side of the camera: So There (1997), The Black Beach (2001), and C'est pas tout à fait la vie dont j'avais rêvé (2005), all jointly written with his wife Ludivine Clerc. Dark and jumpy films, serious and as if apologizing for existing. Not wanting to disturb. Just like Michel Piccoli was.
The tremendous, great Michel Piccoli.