A sacred monster of the theater hailed by Emmanuel Macron; the tears of Muriel Robin: a national tribute to the Invalides was paid on Wednesday April 27 to the actor Michel Bouquet, who died on April 13 at the age of 96.
“He burned the boards and punctured the screen for sixty years”said during the eulogy the President of the Republic, just re-elected, a few hours after having made his first public outing since Sunday in Cergy (Val-d’Oise). “He reigned over the theater as a sacred monster (…), it revealed unsuspected aspects, opened up new breaches”said the head of state, who was accompanied for the ceremony by his wife, Brigitte.
In the company of a dozen students from the National Conservatory of Dramatic Art, where Michel Bouquet was a teacher, he laid white flowers at the foot of a portrait of the actor. Contrary to what had been observed during the recent national tributes paid to Jean-Paul Belmondo (2021) or Charles Aznavour (2018), the coffin was not present, Mr. Bouquet having already been buried on April 15, in the most strict intimacy, in the native village of his wife, the actress Juliette Carré, in Yonne.
“I am your theater father”
At the ceremony, the actress was surrounded by other family members and names from the French stage and cinema, including actors Michel Boujenah, Catherine Frot, Fabrice Luchini, Pierre Arditi and Muriel Robin, who was a student. by Michel Bouquet at the Conservatoire. It was she who delivered the most moving speech, remembering how Michel Bouquet had saved her at a time when she wanted “stop everything”.
“I was 25 years old. You caught me on the fly with a few words that overwhelmed me: “I am your theater father” (…) Mr. Bouquet, I tell you without emphasis: you have undoubtedly prevented me from dying and even more given me to live.she launched. “Your tenderness tinged with modesty will never leave me. The king is dying. Not you, not you, especially not you”she added, her voice choking.
“When you played, Michel, you imposed, and what is very rare, something which is of the order of the indisputable (…) no one could replace yousaid Mr. Luchini. “Michel, you are the theatre, and the theater never dies”, said Pierre Arditi. Unforgettable in The King is Dying, by Eugène Ionesco – which he performed no less than eight hundred times – and in The Miserby Molière, Michel Bouquet died on April 13.
He had also left his mark on the cinema by playing an astonishing François Mitterrand on the evening of his life in The Walker of the Champ-de-Mars, by Robert Guédiguian (2005). This role earned him the César for best actor, after that received a few years earlier for Anne Fontaine’s film how i killed my father (2002).
On screen, he also played secret characters in Claude Chabrol’s films (The Unfaithful Wifein 1969), performed under the direction of François Truffaut (The bride was in blackin 1967) and was a masterful Javert, chasing Jean Valjean in Wretched by Robert Hossein (1982).
But it was for the theater that this giant of the stage showed his preference, making known in France the work of Harold Pinter and putting himself at the service of great classical texts (Molière, Diderot or Strindberg) and contemporary (Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, Albert Camus or Thomas Bernhard).
Born November 6, 1925 in Paris, the son of an officer who had become a prisoner of war, Michel Bouquet owed his taste for the spectacle to his mother, who regularly took him to the Opéra-Comique. “Each time the curtain rose, there was no longer the horror of war, there were no longer Germans around (…), the unreal world far exceeded the real world. It was the best lesson of my life.”he told Agence France-Presse in 2019.