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Mar 25, 2009

Mountains don’t meet : two film alcoholics. (1/5)

83bc395a0b76987aa3184f8c699a93d4.jpgClaude Chabrol has directed close to sixty films. He loves food and wine, all that the French call « bonne chère ».

Gérard Depardieu has played in more than one hundred and fifty films. He loves food and wine, all that the French call « bonne chère ».

Claude Chabrol has directed Jean-Claude Brialy, Jean Yanne, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Anthony Perkins, Orson Welles, Michel Serrault, Jean Poiret, Philippe Noiret, François Cluzet, Jacques Dutronc, Benoit Magimel...

Gérard Depardieu has been directed by Luis Bunuel, Bertrand Blier, Claude Sautet, Bernardo Bertolucci, Marguerite Duras, Claude Miller, Jean-Paul Rappeneau, Maurice Pialat, François Truffaut, Francis Veber, Alain Resnais, Ridley Scott, Kenneth Branagh, Claude Zidi...

Gérard Depardieu has never played in a film directed by Claude Chabrol.

Do they dislike each other ? Do they like food and wine, but different kinds of food and wine ? Do they like cinema but different brands of filmmaking ?

Does Chabrol shrink away from drinking Depardieu-branded wine throughout a shoot ?

Are they incompatible, like two chemical bodies : the antithesis of chemistry ? Are they doomed never to meet, like the moon and the sun ? or would their meeting be as distasteful as champagne with sirloin steak ?

You cannot not imagine Bogart in a John Ford film, John Wayne in a Billy Wilder comedy, Depardieu in a Chabrol movie ? Godard nevertheless directed Jean Yanne and Alain Delon, Billy Wilder Bogart and Erich von Stroheim, Jean-Pierre Melville Bourvil.

Is it a matter of generations ? Chabrol was born in 1930, Depardieu in 1948. Depardieu was ten when Chabrol filmed his first movie. John Wayne too was ten when John Ford directed his first film.

Just a combination of odds and circumstances ? However long the list of films you direct or play in, missed encounters will always outnumber actual collaborations.

Were there missed opportunities, parts in Chabrol films left crying for Depardieu ?

Gérard Depardieu would have been a great « boucher » for Chabrol, but Jean Yanne was perfect and it was a 1968 film : Gérard was twenty and his credits no longer than one short film.

Gérard could have been equally horrendous and convincing as Landru, French historic serial killer, but Chabrol shot his eponymous film -« Bluebeard »- in 1962. Charles Denner, who played the part, was thirty six. At fourteen, had he wished to watch the film, Depardieu might not have been let inside the theatre.

In 1986, Gérard was thirty eight. He had the right age and the right build to be Max Chernet, night club owner, pimp and drug dealer, whom Jean Poiret’s « Inspecteur Lavardin » sadistically tortured to our unrepentant pleasure. But it was only a supporting part : why bother, or offend, Gérard for so little ? and burden the film with a heavyweight, when Swiss actor Jean-Luc Bideau handled the part in most competent and entertaining fashion ?

Gérard might also have been Monsieur Bovary to Isabelle Huppert’s Madame, in Chabrol’s 1991 version of Flaubert’s novel, but, again, it was not a case of « Depardieu or no film » and the part went to Jean-François Balmer.

During an era when Gérard Depardieu seemed ubiquitous, Chabrol’s films prove some branches French cinema were still able to exist and even prosper without him.

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