Gérard Depardiovski: his carriage awaits
Remember the ‘misery of making tea’ scene in the ‘Father Ted’ Christmas special? The one where Mrs Doyle reminisces with Father Ted about all their happy memories of her making the tea, and they flash up in little thought bubbles? Yeah, well I’m having one of those now and it begins here:
‘Preparez Vox Mouchoirs’, a sort of ménage-a-trois romp by Bertrand Blier in which Depardieu plays a guy who lives all alone in a room with only the complete works of Mozart, on LP, arranged around his bed in order of Köchel number… I was a kid, I was obsessed with Mozart, that was it. Love at first sight. I’d half forgotten this film, but I remember it now.
Indeed, there is a Mozartian beauty, a hint of the possibility of redemption, in all his performances.
Fast-forward through ‘Loulou’, ‘The Return of Martin Guerre’, ‘Danton’ – ‘Jean de Florette’ and ‘Manon des Sources’ - ‘Les Valseuses’, from 1974, shown again when he was properly famous (up to then he’d been just mine) – and then the sublime tragic wonder of ‘Cyrano’ in 1990, and even ‘Green Card’ which I do love even with Andie McDowell in it. And then later, the only Count of Monte Cristo who ever made me feel that drive for revenge – what that would be like. It was a six-hour French television series, which long ago my aunt – the one I now write about, with Alzheimers – taped for us. One afternoon my middle kid, aged about 12, put it on and sat there and watched the entire thing – in French, with subtitles – from start to finish.
You know, some of us like the misery of making tea.
And ‘The Man in the Iron Mask’! All the Baroque offspring loved that, and I still have that video too.
There’s lots of French Heritage in this list, which might begin to seem a little ironic; and I’ve left out all the stuff about Napoleon, and Balzac. But then in 2006 we come to the pinnacle, the finest moment maybe since ‘Cyrano’ – we come to the dazzling afternoon when I sat in the Renoir Cinema and ‘Quand J’etais Chanteur’ unfolded before me (a much more evocative title than the English ‘The Singer’) – a mountain of a film about a mountain of a man – a fragile giant, noble in his mediocrity, fine in his crassness… a man who lives in the modern suburbs of the hypermarkets and lost dreams – and a man who humbly and modestly knows his destiny lies there. I saw the film twice in the cinema, and I have the DVD, and I’ve given it as a gift more than once.
A friend says he manages his bulk so gracefully, as an actor, in general, that it’s like watching a dancing wardrobe. The same friend says: ‘All his performances are at least a little bit sublime. And when he was young, the energy was so intense you felt you were watching him with your muscles.’
But the other stuff. Okay, up to a point you go, well it is Depardieu, after all he was a thug when he was young, and it has always been supposed to be about the tenderness amid the beefy oikness, the gentleness and the power, that was the deal. And then his son died, Guillaume, and no one’s life is perfect. And some geniuses are arses. He talks of his appetite for life as if that excuses him anything, and he’s right: it does. We need that; we’ve been telling him so for 30 years. We need someone to represent it in all of us, because we can’t quite seem to do it for ourselves – not in as big a way as the noble, gentle, powerful man-mountain. Not in as big a way as Mammuth.
Mammuth in a man-suit
But that hate campaign against Juliet Binoche, who never hurt a fly. The pissed old fart pissing on the plane, frankly quite depressing. The road rage. Well, whatever.
Then ‘I’m moving six inches over the border into Belgium rather than pay the French super-tax, because I am a godly being and must not be asked to fulfil any civic duty beyond existing, I am your gift. The money is resting in my account!’ This is a blow, because it suddenly makes him look like Tracey Emin.
And now THIS:
‘Get me pen and ink! I’m going to write to Russia!’ And today Putin has personally signed the paperwork granting him citizenship. Just like that. (Starfucker.) So Gerry speaks to Francois Hollande and tells him that Russia is ‘a great democracy, and not a country where the prime minister calls one of its citizens shabby’. He writes an open letter, broadcast on Russia’s main TV station, saying, ‘I filed a passport application and I am pleased that it was accepted. I love your country, Russia — its people, its history, its writers. I love your culture, your intelligence’.
I hope he wasn’t directing that personally at the President.
And I hope he won’t be subject to the kind of freedom-of-speech laws most Russian citizens are. He’s larger than life, remember? But then, Putin says he won’t even have to live in Russia. He can just have a passport. He’s more than rich enough, of course (which is where we came in), not to need anything else.
I do know one thing. I’d hate to take a favour from Putin.
And it’s hard to imagine Chekhov having anything very good to say.
And so Depardieu departs. From pretty much everything.
‘You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares, and go, Danton’.