Thursday, 5 May 2011

Le grand Gérard

It's been a while but I'm looking forward to a couple of new Gérard Depardieu films. French cinema's biggest international star made his name in the 1970s with movies for Bertrand Blier (Les valseuses, Buffet froid), Bernardo Bertolucci (1900, alongside Robert De Niro) and François Truffaut (Le dernier métro, with Catherine Deneuve).

In the 1980s he cemented his status with a remarkable run: The Return of Martin Guerre, Danton, Moon in the Gutter (Jean-Jacques Beineix's David Goodis adaptation), Under the Sun of Satan, Police (both for Maurice Pialat), Tenue de soirée, Trop belle pour toi (both back with Blier), Drole d'endroit pour une rencontre (with Deneuve, again), Camille Claudel (opposite Isabelle Adjani), Cyrano de Bergerac and Claude Berri's Marcel Pagnol adaptation, Jean de Florette, alongside Yves Montand and Daniel Auteuil.

An attempt to break into English-language cinema at the start of the '90s was hilariously misjudged: director Peter Weir may imbue Green Card with some charm but My Father the Hero is cringingly awful, not least in its semi-incestuous subject matter. Only another actor might resent an actor working too much but over the next two decades Depardieu appeared in an incredible amount of cod-historical dreck - and as Asterix's barrel-chested chum Obelix, a role seemingly destined to take advantage of the actor's ever-expanding girth.

There are subplots to this period of Depardieu's life: his interest in his vineyard and the volatile relationship with actor son Guillaume, who made his feature debut proper alongside his father in 1991's Tous les matins du monde and went on to pursue a series of great choices, including a couple of terribly underrated films with Pierre Salvadori (Cible émouvante and Les apprentis), Pola X (for Leos Carax) and Don't Touch the Axe (Jacques Rivette). (Guillaume had to have one leg amputated when it became infected following a motorbike accident and died in 2008 from pneumonia, aged 37.)

A hint that Gérard Depardieu was returning to something of his past form came with a self-referential turn as a gangster in Mesrine: Killer Instinct (pictured, 2008) and in Claude Chabrol's Inspector Bellamy (2009), though we still had to endure the lazy schmaltz of My Afternoons with Margueritte (Jean Becker, 2010). Now we can look forward to Potiche (out 17 June) - directed by Francois Ozon, starring Catherine Deneuve - and Mammuth, screening tonight at the Ciné lumiere.

Yolande Moreau returns for Gustave de Kevern and Benoît Delépine's follow-up to Louise-Michel, which also stars Isabelle Adjani, and continues the directors' typically inspired, bad-taste exploration of individual rebellion in capitalist society. As he enters his sixth decade, Depardieu has a remarkable, dismaying, 11 features pencilled in over the next two years, according to IMDb. The list includes more English-language productions, cod-historical dreck and the dubiously titled Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia. Not promising.

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