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French Cinema, Stars

Nouvelle vague Stars 2: Jean-Claude Brialy

Jean-Claude Brialy with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina in Une femme est une femme 

Jean-Claude Brialy with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina in Une femme est une femme

Jean-Claude Brialy (1933-2007) was the smooth, debonair and charming star of numerous films in la nouvelle vague. He was born to an Army colonel in Algeria and showed an early interest in drama. Following drama school and his national military service he set out on a film career, getting a small part in Renoir’s Elena et les hommes as early as 1956. In the same year he appeared in a short made by Jacques Rivette. 

But it was in 1958 with Claude Chabrol’s Le beau Serge that Brialy established himself as one of the faces of la nouvelle vague. He followed it with Chabrol’s next film Les Cousins in 1959 and then appeared as the lead in Godard’s short, Tous les garçons s’appellent Patrick (1959). He had walk-on uncredited parts in films by Louis Malle, Truffaut, Rivette and Varda as well as another short by Godard (L’histoire d’eau (1961)). My favourite performance was in Godard’s brilliant and enjoyable Une femme est une femme (1961) and in the same year he made it three in a row for Chabrol with the little seen Les godelureaux.

In 1968 he finally took a lead role in Truffaut’s Hitchcock tribute La mariée était en noir and eve took the lead in a Flaubert adaptation by Alexandre Astruc, L’éducation sentimentale (1962). (It was Astruc who supplied Truffaut with the concept of the ‘camera-stylo‘ which was one of the feature of la politique des auteurs.) In 1970, Brialy made it a full house of the celebrated Cahiers auteurs with the lead in Eric Rohmer’s Le genou de Claire. In this film, Brialy, the arch smooth seducer of the 1960s is a 35 year-old inveigled into a flirtation which ends up with an obsession with a young girl’s beautiful knee – a fitting symbol perhaps for the passing of la nouvelle vague. (I remember that I enjoyed the film at the time.)

Jean-Claude Brialy has over  180 credits on IMDB – a list that includes a great many interesting films. His persona perhaps doesn’t spring to mind when we think of la nouvelle vague now, but he was surely terrifically important in making many of the films popular, providing a glamorous, but slightly subversive character providing a contrast to the rougher charms of a Belmondo.

I’ve no idea where this comes from, but it shows the chemistry between Anna Karina and Jean-Claude Brialy:

This is absolutely wonderful and gives a very good idea of what a young Brialy brought to a sexy young French Cinema in 1960. It’s the trailer from Le gigolo (1960). The older woman is the beautiful Alida Valli (from The Third Man) and the film was directed by Jacques Deray, best known outside of France for Borsalino (1970) with Belmondo and Alain Delon. This was his first film, which qualifies him as a ‘New Wave’ director. Don’t you want to see the movie?

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