Michael Lonsdale was a British-French actor who mainly worked in France, one of my favorite actors. He played in many films, though rarely as the protagonist. He turned 89.
In the English-speaking world, he was known for his role as the villain Hugo Drax in the James Bond film Moonraker, and for his appearances in The Day of the Jackal and The Remains of the Day.
As a character actor with a penetrating gaze, he can be admired in auteur films such as Le fantôme de la liberté (1974) by Luis Buñuel, Glissements progressifs du plaisir (1974) by Alain Robbe-Grillet and the unforgettable 5×2 (2004) by François Ozon.
I would like to take this rather sinister opportunity to highlight the story “Bartleby” (1853) by Herman “Moby Dick” Melville. That short story was adapted for film four times, and in the 1976 French version, Lonsdale plays the bailiff.
The hero in “Bartleby” is called Bartleby. He is a clerk who is recruited at a law firm to copy documents, but soon after his arrival at the firm refuses an assignment with the legendary words “I would prefer not to”. From then on, Bartleby the clerk basically refuses everything, which means that he refuses to live.
This hero is reminiscent of other impossible, frustrated novel characters such as the nameless hero in Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground (1864) and Julien Sorel in Stendhal’s The Red and the Black (1830).
In the clip, Lonsdale visits Bartleby in prison where he urges the latter to make a last effort to live. In vain. We see Bartleby die while standing up.
Michel Piccoli was a French actor of the generation of Philippe Noiret, Jean Rochefort and yes, Yves Montand.
Of note is his work with Marco Ferreri (Dillinger Is Dead, La Grande Bouffe, The Last Woman and Don’t Touch the White Woman!); with Luis Buñuel (Diary of a Chambermaid Belle de jour, The Milky Way, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Phantom of Liberty); and Jean-Luc Godard (Contempt).
In The Milky Way (1969) he plays Marquis de Sade.
Then there is the iconic La Grande Bouffe (1973), the story of three bourgeois men who decide to eat themselves to death.
Later I saw Themroc (1973), one of the strangest counterculture films where he played opposite the tragic but delightful Patrick Dewaere.
Watching clips on YouTube, you see him with Romy Schneider in The Things of Life (1970), my god what a beautiful woman she was.
In the first clip (13:53) Anna stands in front of a mirror in the same bathroom as in which she takes a bath in the third clip.
The voice-over: “What was directly lived reappears frozen in the distance, engraved in the tastes and illustions of an era and carried off with it.”
In the second clip (14:41) she is in the bath and rubs herself with soap.
The voice-over: “There is no more should-be; being has been consumed to the point of ceasing to exist. The details are already lost in the dust of time. “Who was afraid of life, afraid of the night, afraid of being taken, afraid of being kept?”
In the third clip (17:30) she is seen at the wheel of a convertible car, a bird’s eye view, three young people get out of the car.
The voice-over: “In the final analysis, stars are not created by their talent or lack of talent, or even by the film industry or advertising. They are created by the need we have for them.”
The fourth clip (18:09) begins where the first clip left off.
The voice-over: “The advertisements during intermissions are the truest reflection of an intermission from life.” Translations are from .