Nationality: French. Born: Jacques Daniel Michel Piccoli in Paris of Italian parents, 27 December 1925. Family: Married 1) Eleno Eleonore Hirt (divorced), daughter: Anne-Cordélia; 2) the actress and singer Juliette Greco, 1966 (divorced 1977); 3) Ludivine Clerc, 1978. Career: 1944—film debut in Sortilèges; also worked on French stage and television. Awards: French Étoile de Cristal Award for Best Actor, for La Curée, 1966; Best Actor, Cannes Festival, for Salto nel vuoto, 1979.
Films as Actor:
Le Point du jour (Daquin); Le Parfum de la dame en noir (Daquin)
Sans laisser d'adresse (Chanois)
Terreur en Oklahoma (Paviot—short)
Chicago Digest (Paviot—short); Torticola contre Frankensberg (Paviot—short); Saint-Tropez, devoir de vacances (Paviot—short); "Jeanne d'Arc" ep. of Destinées (Delannoy)
Interdit de séjour (de Canonge)
Tout chante autour de moi (Gout)
French Cancan (Only the French Can) (Renoir) (as Valorguil); Les Mauvaises Rencontres (Astruc); Ernst Thälman Führer seiner Klasse (Maetzig)
La Mort en ce jardin (Death in the Garden; Evil Eden; Gina) (Buñuel) (as Father Lizzardi); Les Sorcières de Salem (Witches of Salem; The Crucible) (Rouleau); Marie-Antoinette (Delannoy); Les Copains du dimanche (Aisner)
Nathalie (The Foxiest Girl in Paris) (Christian-Jaque) (as Frank Marchal, policeman); Tabarin (Pottier)
Rafles sur la ville (Sinners of Paris) (Chenal)
La Bête à l'affût (Chenal); La Dragée haute (Kerchner)
Le bal des espions (Clément)
Le vergini di Roma (Amazons of Rome) (Bragaglia and Cottafavi); Le Rendez-vous (Delannoy); La Chevelure (Kyrou—short); Le Rendez-vous de Nöel (Michel—short)
Climats (Lorenzi); Fumée, histoire et fantaisie (Villiers and Berne—short)
Le Doulos (The Fingerman; Doulos—The Fingerman) (Melville) (as Nuttheccio); Le Jour et l'heure (The Day and the Hour) (Clément) (as Antoine); Le Mépris (Contempt) (Godard) (as Paul Javal)
Le Journal d'une femme de chambre (Diary of a Chambermaid) (Buñuel) (as Monsieur Monteil); La Chance et l'amour (Bitsch); Marie-Soleil (Bourseiller); Pararazzi (Rozier—short); De l'amour (Aurel) (as Raoul)
Masquerade (Dearden) (as Sarrassin); Lady L (Ustinov) (as Lecoeur); Le Coup de grâce (Gayrol); Compartiment tueurs (The Sleeping Car Murder) (Costa-Gavras) (as Cabourg); Les Ruses du Diable (Vecchiali); Café tabac (Guillemot—short)
Paris brûle-t-il? (Is Paris Burning?) (Clément) (as Edgar Pisani); La Curée (The Game Is Over) (Vadim) (as Alexan-dre Saccard); La Guerre est finie (The War Is Over;Krigetar Slut) (Resnais) (as customs inspector); Les Créatures (Varelserna) (Varda) (as Edgar); La Voleuse (Chapot)
Un Homme de trop (Shock Troops) (Costa-Gavras) (as Extra Man); Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (The Young Girls of Rochefort) (Demy) (as Simon Dame); Belle de jour (Buñuel) (as Henri Husson); Mon amour, mon amour (Trintignant)
Benjamin ou Les mémoires d'un puceau (Benjamin; The Diary of an Innocent Boy) (Deville) (as Count Philippe de Saint-Germain); Danger: Diabolik (Diabolik) (Bava) (as Inspector Ginco); La Chamade (Cavalier) (as Charles); La Prisonnière (The Female Prisoner; La Prigioniera) (Clouzot); Dillinger è morto (Dillinger Is Dead) (Ferreri) (as Glauco)
La Voie lactée (The Milky Way; La Via lattea) (Buñuel) (as the Marquis); Topaz (Hitchcock) (as Jacques Granville); L'invitata (de Seta)
Les Choses de la vie (The Things of Life) (Sautet) (as Pierre); L'Invasion (Yves Allégret); Max et les ferrailleurs (Sautet) (title role)
La Poudre d'escampette (Touch and Go; French Leave) (de Broca) (as Valentin)
La Décade prodigieuse (Ten Days' Wonder) (Chabrol) (as Paul Regis); Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie) (Buñuel) (as Home Secretary); L'udienza (The Audience; The Papal Audience) (Ferreri); La cagna (Liza) (Ferreri); La Femme en bleu (Deville); César et Rosalie (Cesar and Rosalie) (Sautet) (as narrator); L'Attentat (The Plot; The French Conspiracy) (Boisset) (as Colonel Kassar)
Themroc (Faraldo) (title role, + co-pr); Les Noces rouges(Wedding in Blood; Red Wedding) (Chabrol); La Grande Bouffe (Blow-Out) (Ferreri) (as Michel, the TV producer); Le Far-West (Brel); Grandeur nature (Life Size; Love Doll) (Berlanga); Touche pas à la femme blanche (Don't Touch White Women) (Ferreri) (as Buffalo Bill)
Le Trio infernal (Girod); Le Fantôme de la liberté (The Phantom of Liberty; The Specter of Freedom) (Buñuel) (as 2nd prefect); La Faille (Fleischmann); Léonor (Juan Buñuel) (as Richard)
Vincent, François, Paul, et les autres (Vincent, Paul, and the Others) (Sautet); Sept morts sur ordonnance (Rouffio) (as Dr. Losseray)
Mado (Sautet) (as Simon Leotard); F comme Fairbanks(Dugowson); Todo modo (Petri); L'ultimata donna (The Last Woman; La Derniere femme) (Ferreri)
L'Imprécateur (Bertucelli); René la Canne (Girod); Des Enfants gâtés (Spoiled Children) (Tavernier) (as Bernardi); La Part du feu (Périer)
L'Etat sauvage (The Savage State) (Girod) (as Orlaville);Strauberg ist Da (Gallé); La Petite Fille en velours bleu (Bridges); Le Sucre (Rouffio)
Giallo napoletano (Neapolitan Thriller) (Corbucci); Der Preiss für Überleben (Le Prix de la survie) (Noever); Le Mors auxdents (Heynemann); Le Divorcement (Barouh); Salto nel vuoto (A Leap in the Dark; Leap into the Void) (Bellocchio)(as Judge Ponticelli)
La Fille prodigue (Doillon)
Atlantic City (Malle) (as Joseph); Une Etrange Affaire (Granier-Deferre) (as Bertrand Maler); Espion, lève toi (Boisset); La Passante du Sans-Souci (La Passante) (Rouffio and Kirsner)(as Max Baumstein); La Nuit de Varennes (That Night in Varennes; The New World) (Scola) (as King Louis XVI)
Passion (Godard); Une Chambre en ville (A Room in Town)(Demy) (as Edmond Leroyer); Le Prix du danger (Boisset);Oltre la porta (Beyond the Door) (Cavani); Que les gros salaires lèvent le doigt!!! (Granier-Deferre) (as José Viss);Le Général de l'armée morte (Il generale dell'armata morta) (Tovoli) (+ co-sc); Gli occhi, la bocca (The Eyes, the Mouth) (Bellocchio) (as Uncle Nigi)
Viva la vie (Lelouch)
La Diagonale du fou (Dangerous Moves) (Dembo) (as Akiva Liebskind); Adieu Bonaparte (Weda'an Bonapart) (Chahine)(as Louis Caffarelli du Flaga); Péril en la demeure (Peril;Death in a French Garden) (Deville) (as Graham Tombsthay); Le Matelot 512 (Allio); Success Is the Best Revenge (Skolimowski) (as French official)
Partir, revenir (Going and Coming Back) (Lelouch) (as Simon Lerner)
Mauvais Sang (Bad Blood; The Night Is Young) (Carax) (as Marc); Mon beau-frère a tué ma soeur (Rouffio) (as Ètienne); Le Paltoquet (Deville) (as The Nonentity); La Puritaine (Doillon) (as Pierre)
Maladie d'amour (Deray) (as Raoul Bergeron); La Terre étrangère (Bondy); L'Homme voilé (The Veiled Man)(Bagdadi) (as Kassar); La Rumba (Hanin) (as Malleville)
Blanc de chine (Granier-Deferre); Y'a Bon les blancs (Ferreri)
Milou en mai (May Fools) (Malle) (as Milou); Martha und Ich(Martha and I) (Jiri Weiss) (as Uncle Ernst); La Belle Noiseuse (The Beautiful Troublemaker; Divertimento)(Rivette) (as Edouard Frenhofer)
L'Equilibriste (Walking a Tightrope) (Papatakis) (as Marcel Spadice); Das Schicksal des Freiherrn von Leisenbohg(Molinaro); El Ladron del Ninos (The Children Thief; Le Voleur d'enfants) (De Chalonge) (as M. Armand); Contre l'oubli (Against Oblivion; Ecrire contre l'oubli) (Akerman and others)
Archipelago (Granier-Deferre) (as Leonard Wilde); Le Bal des casse-pieds (Yves Robert) (as Desire); From Time to Time (Blyth) (as Jules Verne); Le Souper (The Supper)(Molinaro) (as voice of Chateaubriand); La Vie crevee(Punctured Life) (Nicloux) (as Raymond)
La Cavale des Fous (Loonies at Large) (Pico) (as Henri Toussaint); Ruptures (Citti) (as Paul)
Bête de scène; L'Ange noir (The Black Angel) (Brisseau) (as Georges Feuvrier); Al Mohager (The Emigrant) (Chahine)(as Adam)
Les Cent et une nuits (A Hundred and One Nights) (Varda) (as Simon Cinema)
Tykho Moon (Bilal); Compagna di viaggio (Del Monte);Beaumarchais, l'insolent (Molinaro) (as le Prince Conti)
Généalogies d'un crime (as Georges Didier)
Simoom: A Passion in the Desert (Currier) (as Jean-Michel Venture de Paradis)
Rien sur Robert (Bonitzer) (as Lord Ariel Chatwick-West); Libero Burro (Castellitto) (as Uncle Tony); París Tombuctú(Luis García Berlanga) (as Michel des Assantes)
Les Acteurs (Blier) (as himself)
Film as Actor and Director:
Il Generale dell'armata morte
Train de nuit (+ co-sc)
By PICCOLI: book—
Dialogues égoïstes, with Alain Lacombe, Paris, 1976.
By PICCOLI: articles—
Interviews in Cinématographe (Paris), September/October 1983 and November 1986.
Interviews with Serge Toubiana, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), October 1984 and December 1986.
Interview with T. Jousse and N. Saada, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), November 1990.
"Un moment étoile de l'humanite," interview with J. A. Gili and others, in Positif (Paris), January 1992.
Interview with Geoff Andrew, in Time Out (London), 18 March 1992.
On PICCOLI: book—
Chazal, Robert, Michel Piccoli: Le provocateur , Paris, 1989.
Blum, Heiko, R., MichelPiccoli:seineFilme,seinLeben, München, 1993.
On PICCOLI: articles—
Ciné Revue (Paris), 8 May 1980 and 8 March 1984.
Film Français (Paris), 1 March 1985.
Merigeau, P., and J. Zimmer, "Toujours jouer le metteur en scène," in Revue du Cinéma, (Paris), September 1991.
Sartor, F., "Rivette, Piccoli & Béart," in Film en Televisie + Video (Brussels), November 1991.
Deville, M., "Le film de ma vie," in Positif (Paris), June 1994.
Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), July-August 1997.
* * *
In a career spanning six decades and encompassing more than 130 films by major European directors, Michel Piccoli deservedly enjoys an international reputation as an accomplished, versatile actor. His repertoire extends from anodyne comic roles to those stamped by ferocious black humor, from the gentle and compassionate to the cynical and sadistic, from the respectable to the deliberately outrageous.
A powerful screen presence, he has constantly served his character creations. His dark, gaunt appearance in his mid-thirties lent conviction to tough, sinister roles in crime thrillers, particularly as Nuttheccio, the successful gangster of Le Doulos. Later physically imposing roles include that of Max the vice-squad detective in Max et les ferrailleurs and the ruthless Colonel Kassar in L'Attentat. The sexual charge in Piccoli's acting was regularly exploited by Luis Buñuel. After La Mort en ce jardin where he played a priest compromised by a prostitute, he became the eager womanizer Husson of Belle de jour, the frustrated Monteil pursuing his servants in Le Journal d'une femme de chambre, and the perverse sensualist de Sade in La Voie lactée.
Further perspectives on Piccoli's range are found in parts requiring a more reflective, detached, and experienced view of the world. He was the phlegmatic philosophy teacher undisturbed by horrendous events in La Décade prodigieuse; the knowledgeable music-shop manager in Les Demoiselles de Rochefort; the elegant opera-loving croupier Joseph of Atlantic City and in Paris brûle-t-il? the Gaullist politician Edgar Pisani. A more disturbing moral detachment is witnessed as the cynical businessman of La Curée, as the calculating and unfeeling manipulator of Benjamin, or as the callous, corrupt, and lustful lawyer of Le Trio infernal. Yet he has also played sensitive or insecure males: in Le Mépris he excelled as the self-doubting writer Paul Javal, in Les Choses de la vie he portrayed an architect torn between his mistress and family life, and in Compartiment tueurs he played the neurotic victim Cabourg.
In roles reflecting the sardonic, self-critical mood of the 1960s and 1970s Piccoli risked his established image by appearing in fiercely satirical and often scandalous films exposing the materialism, authoritarianism, gluttony, sexual depravity, and cupidity of contemporary society. His humanistic concerns are further reflected in later films by Buñuel, Godard, Tavernier, and Tovoli.
For emerging directors he extended his canon of tough characters, while in parodies of the genre he was the surly barman in Deville's Le Paltoquet indulging in murder fantasies about his clients, and in Rouffio's Mon beau-frère a tué ma soeur he was successfully teamed with Michel Serrault as an unworldly academic. Unusually cast as the victim, he was murdered by his duplicitous wife in Deville's compelling Péril en la demeure.
In studies of the jealous male losing a mistress he was impressive in Demy's Une Chambre en ville and in Deray's Maladie d'amour. Among Piccoli's most successful depictions of human complexity must rank his role in Bellochio's Salto nel vuoto as the apparently balanced, humane judge who in private is withdrawn, depressive, and despotic.
With age he has increasingly come to play the role of the father, particularly in explorations of the father/daughter relationship. In Cavani's Oltre la porta he convinced as the distraught parent of a prostitute daughter, but his most notable performances came for Doillon: as the tragic father nearing death in La Fille prodigue, and, in the emotionally intense performance of La Puritaine, as a stage director working out in dramatic terms his feelings for his wayward daughter.
Whether as gangster, glutton, sardonic observer, lustful womanizer, reflective intellectual, cynical manipulator, or the mature compassionate male, Michel Piccoli carries conviction in his accomplished variations on his powerful screen personality.
—R. F. Cousins