News  ·  18 | 05 | 2020

Adieu Michel

Farewell to Michel Piccoli, a great European film actor

European cinema has lost one of its greatest actors. Michel Piccoli, the face of a geographically unrestricted film landscape, and voice of the culture of an entire continent, passed away on May 12. Born in France but of Italian descent, Piccoli celebrated the Locarno Film Festival's 60th anniversary with us in 2007: he came for the Excellence Award, and left with the Pardo for Best Actor, for his performance in Hiner Saleem's Beneath the Rooftops of Paris

That Pardo was just the latest in a long line of acknowledgements for a career that spanned over 200 films, complete with a Palme d'Or (Marco Bellocchio's A Leap in the Dark, 1980), a Silver Bear (Pierre Granier-Deferre's Strange Affair, 1981) and a David di Donatello (Nanni Moretti's We Have a Pope, 2011). To explain what he meant to the silver screen, one could just list the directors he worked with, from Jean Renoir to Alfred Hitchcock, from Costa-Gavras to Alain Resnais, from Jean-Luc Godard to Ettore Scola, from Agnès Varda to Theo Angelopoulos, from Marco Ferreri to Luis Buñuel. With the surrealist genius specifically, he embarked on a journey that lasted almost two decades, consisting of Death in the Garden (1956), Diary of a Chambermaid (1964), Belle de Jour (1967), The Milky Way (1969) and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972). Those who came across his talent were rarely capable of letting it go, be they Claude Chabrol, Agnès Varda, Claude Sautet or Manoel de Oliveira. 

In 2007, he conquered Piazza Grande with his cheerfulness, his smile and his teen-like eyes, lifting the Excellence Award up to the sky as part of a memorable night. A few years later, he crossed over into another decade of filmmaking by playing a reluctant Pope for Nanni Moretti. The next year, in 2012, he returned to Locarno, spiritually, with Léos Carax's Holy Motors, his penultimate film. Three years after that, in his autobiography, he wrote "I would like to not die." We would have liked that too. Adieu Michel, and merci.