The actor Michel Bouquet, who has died aged 96, was presently middle-aged by the time he discovered fame taking part in baleful, corrupt or complacent figures in films by the New Wave provocateur Claude Chabrol. He was a cuckolded husband who kills his wife’s lover in La Femme Infidèle (The Unfaithful Wife, 1969) and an advertising govt who accidentally kills his individual lover in Juste Avant La Nuit (Just Ahead of Nightfall, 1971). In in between, he did some of his wickedest operate as a wealthy tyrant besmirching his daughter-in-law’s name as he plots to attain custody of his grandson in La Rupture (The Breach, 1970). Each and every of these films paired him with the director’s spouse, Stéphane Audran, and portrayed “the petit bourgeois house as unsparingly as Thérèse Raquin or Madame Bovary”, as the critic Nigel Andrews set it.
Bouquet lent the most unsavoury characters a compelling internal daily life, even when they lingered only briefly on screen. In François Truffaut’s Hitchcockian thriller The Bride Wore Black (1968), he was a single of the adult males murdered by a widow (Jeanne Moreau) searching for revenge for her husband’s demise. His demise is in particular grisly – he expires on the flooring of his seedy hotel home after being poisoned – but the actor conveyed concealed proportions which made the sufferer a plausibly pitiful determine, alternatively than merely cannon fodder. (“I can count on a person, no, two arms how lots of girls I have had,” he states.) He was equally great, even though scarcely more likable, as a detective in Truffaut’s Mississippi Mermaid (1969).
Even though several audiences initial saw Bouquet in his New Wave films, he had many years of phase and display screen work driving him by that position. Even viewers who did not know the face may perhaps have recognised the voice: his controlled, emotionless tones had been read in Alain Resnais’s sobering Holocaust documentary Night and Fog (1955). His narration was penned by Jean Cayrol, who survived the Mauthausen-Gusen focus camp Truffaut identified as the 32-moment shorter “the most noble and vital film ever made”.
Bouquet was born in Paris, to Georges, an officer in the French military, and Marie (nee Monot), a milliner. He worked as a baker and a bank clerk to help assistance his loved ones, then took performing classes at the age of 17 from the phase actor Maurice Escande. He enrolled at the Countrywide Conservatory of Extraordinary Arts in Paris a position in the 1946 output of Jean Anouilh’s Le Rendez-vous de Senlis commenced an enduring association with that playwright which continued with Roméo et Jeanette in 1953.
Bouquet also aided to popularise the operate of Harold Pinter among the French audiences, and was a tireless interpreter of Molière, Beckett and Ionesco he played the direct function in Ionesco’s enjoy Exit the King much more than 800 moments.
It was Anouilh who co-wrote the screenplay for Monsieur Vincent, which in 1947 furnished Bouquet with a person of his initial screen roles, and won the Oscar for best overseas film he played a consumptive opposite Pierre Fresnay as the 17th-century saint Vincent de Paul. In the very same 12 months, he was noticed as a killer in the drama Prison Brigade.
He played Louis X in Abel Gance’s La Tour de Nesle (1954) and a priest at a Catholic boarding school in Jean Delannoy’s Les Amitiés Particulières (Exclusive Pals, 1964). His initial movies with Chabrol — the knowingly absurd spy thrillers Le Tigre se Parfume à la Dynamite (Our Agent Tiger, 1965) and La Route de Corinthe (The Highway to Corinth, 1968), which co-starred Jean Seberg – had been rarely characteristic of both of them, and gave minimal hint of the wealthy collaboration in advance.
In Borsalino, he was 3rd-billed as a attorney on the trail of gangsters played by Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon, although he bought a more substantial bite of the cherry as the title character in The Cop (also 1970), which showed a disillusioned law enforcement officer getting the legislation into his personal arms a whole calendar year prior to Clint Eastwood’s Soiled Harry did the same. The unsparing depiction of police brutality and corruption led the French minister of the interior, Raymond Marcellin, to connect with for the film to be banned.
In the dreamlike horror Malpertuis (1971), Bouquet was a mysterious Uriah Heep-style figure who quivers with delight although currently being abused and insulted Orson Welles and Susan Hampshire co-starred. He was one more cop in the murky policier Deux Hommes Dans la Ville (Two Men in City, 1973), this time remorselessly hounding an ex-convict (Delon) in the method of Inspector Javert from Les Misèrables – whom he later on performed in Robert Hossein’s handsome 1982 film model, with Lino Ventura as his quarry Jean Valjean.
Theatre supplied him with quite a few of his most prestigious roles – he was introduced with the most effective actor award by the French Critics’ Circle in 1976 for his performance in René de Obaldia’s Monsieur Klebs et Rosalie, and performed Pozzo in Waiting for Godot two decades later on.
On screen, there was a mouth watering reunion with Chabrol in the thriller Cop au Vin (1985), with Bouquet as a dastardly lawyer. Just as he experienced been “discovered” by the New Wave directors at the end of the 1960s, so he was now released to a new technology of cinemagoers by using the imaginative and initial Belgian comedy Toto the Hero (1991). Bouquet was the ageing, bitter narrator, who looks again enviously on the daily life he would have loved had he not (as he thinks) been swapped with another infant at birth.
Additional plum elements followed. The director Anne Fontaine experienced him in head when she wrote How I Killed My Father (2001), in which she cast him as an estranged patriarch returning to France to complicate the daily life of his son, performed by Charles Berling. Bouquet won the finest actor César for his overall performance in that film, and yet another for taking part in France’s previous president in The Final Mitterrand (2005).
He and Philippe Noiret reprised their phase roles as dyspeptic pensioners in Bertrand Blier’s film of his possess perform Les Côtelletes (2003). In Renoir (2012), Bouquet was agreeably spry as the elderly artist opposite Vincent Rottiers as his movie-maker son, Jean, and Christa Théret as their muse. At 91, he was again on stage in Paris as Orgon in Molière’s Tartuffe.
He is survived by his spouse, the actor Juliette Carré, whom he married in 1970. His initially marriage, to the actor Ariane Borg, finished in divorce.