To be honest I feel a little bit saddened whenever I see Gérard Depardieu on a movie screen. It’s not just that I’m thinking about his bottle peeing in airplanes of lately. It’s the fact that he seems to be growing for every movie he makes, completely out of control. Isn’t there someone around who cares enough about him to try to make him come to his senses? Watching him I come to think Eric Linclater’s children’s fantasy novel The Wind of the Moon, where the girls Dinah and Dorinda are exposed to an evil wind from the moon and start to eat uncontrollably until they’re bouncing around on the streets.
I’m sorry if I’m coming out like a very blunt jerk saying this. But it’s the ugly truth. It’s what I see whenever I see him and it makes me so sad because I happen to like him.
Just to make sure there’s no misunderstanding: I don’t by any means belittle people who have issues with their weight due to illness. And I’m strongly against the predominant body ideal which lures healthy young women into hurting themselves by self starvation.
But in the case of Depardieu, there’s no doubt about the fact that his current condition is dangerous and a result of a self destructive way of life. And what more: I think it affects his acting in a bad way, as it did in the latest movie I watched with him, My Afternoons with Margueritte.
In this movie he plays Germain, a middle-aged man who barely can read, but who likes to study the pigeons as he’s having a lunch break in the park. One day he meets an elderly woman who starts to read to him from books like Camus’ The Plague. An unexpected friendship starts to grow as new worlds open to Germain.
To be more precise I don’t have any problem with his actual acting. It’s for a good reason that he’s become one of the biggest movie stars in France, if not The Biggest (in a double sense.)
It’s when he’s supposed to assume the role of first lover that I get into trouble. In this movie he’s paired up with a girlfriend who isn’t just very good looking and attractive, but also at least twenty years younger and about a third of his weight – or less.
I don’t say that those things never happen. Old and fat guys can get gorgeous women too; fortunately enough. But it would have felt natural if the unusualness of their relationship somehow had been acknowledged in the movie, so we could get the question out of our mind: what does she see in him?
Another piece of thought: would they ever let a woman get away with that body in a movie, letting her have an incredibly looking young lover without explaining it one way or another? Probably not. The movie industry is much harsher on women in that aspect.
Perhaps the whole thing has something to do with culture. Gérard Depardieu is immensely successful and it appears to me that successful men in France are regarded as sexually attractive, regardless of their appearance. How else would the older men in power get all those women?
Well, for all my gloomy thoughts about Gérard Depardieu, there were things about this movie that were enjoyable, especially for a book lover like me. While I hated seeing Depardieu in bed with his girl friend, I loved to see him on the bench, talking about the pigeons and life and literature.
Above all I loved Gisèle Casadesus, who plays the role of the old lady with all the charm and vulnerability and warmth you could ask for. She’s just amazing. Born in 1914 she did her first role in a movie in 1934. And she’s still going strong, making several movies a year, would you believe it?
My Afternoons with Margueritte (La tête en fiche, Jean Becker, FR, 2010) My rating: 3,5/5