Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Happy 70th Birthday Jean Pierre Léaud

Jean Pierre Léaud was born on May 28, 1944 in Paris, Île de France, France. He is the son of actress and writer Jacqueline Stony Pierre Léaud [1923-2005]. If the French New Wave has a face, it might be the beaky, piercing-eyed visage of Jean-Pierre Léaud. In 1959, at age fifteen, Léaud made his debut as Antoine Doinel in François Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows”; over the next two decades, he would play alter ego not only to Truffaut, but to a generation that grew up (or failed to) in parallel with him. For Jean-Luc Godard, he was one of the ‘children of Marx and Coca-Cola’ in films like “Masculine Feminine” (1966) and “La Chinoise” (1967). Later, Léaud worked with Jacques Rivette in the epic “Out 1” (1972) and stalked through the wreckage of the late-sixties dream in Jean Eustache’s anti-epic “The Mother and the Whore” (1973), a film and a performance that obliterate sentimentality. The effect of all these collaborations is cumulative: when Léaud appears in a film by Aki Kaurismäki or Olivier Assayas, his history appears with him.
“Léaud is an anti-documentary actor,” Truffaut said. “He has only to say ‘good morning’ and we find ourselves tipping over into fiction.” Or, in Godardian terms, a Léaud film is Léaud, twenty-four frames per second. Not one to disappear into a role, Léaud brings a defining set of gestures to each performance; Manny Farber wrote, “Léaud’s acting trademark is a passionate decision that peaks his frenzied exasperation, physical compulsiveness.” Declaiming his lines with solemn clarity or demented enthusiasm, Léaud can be compelling or brilliantly comic, sometimes strange, always iconic.
Jean-Pierre appeared in only one Euro-western “A Girl is a Gun” (1971) as William ‘Billy’ Bonney.
Today we celebrate Jean-Pierre Léaud’s 70th birthday.

By Juliet Clark

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