DEPARDIEU by Paul Chutkow

DEPARDIEU

A Biography
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Tiptop film writing and a bathyspheric exploration of the complex emotional depths of a great actor. Chutkow writes on French film for The New York Times and Vogue. He spent three years interviewing and researching Gerard Depardieu (b. 1948) for this bio which, although it has the subject's input, has not been vetted by him. Though essentially about the raging genius and vast appetites of Depardieu, who by midcareer has made 80 films, this is also among the best books ever written about film acting. Few will be unmoved by Chutkow's emotional charting of young Gerard's speech problems as a seemingly retarded peasant child unable to talk without stuttering and given to long silences. Equally affecting are the accounts of his hard times at school, his youth spent racing about hellbent, his quitting school at 13 and leaving tiny Chateauroux for Paris at 16, where after two years he hulks into an acting class for which he is totally unfitted--aside from his hunger to learn. Soon a doctor finds that Gerard has a hearing impairment which affects both speech and understanding. This doctor and another, and Gerard's new wife, Elisabeth, who is both an actress and a psychologist seven years his senior, train him to read and speak. He becomes a force in his acting class and a torrential speaker, falls into films and finds himself launched on an atomic career, first playing thugs and lowlifes, then more sophisticated bourgeois, winning awards and at last filming Cyrano de Bergerac in Rostand's alexandrines, followed by his huge fit into the role of Columbus for Ridley Scott's 1492. He never researches but rather joins his skin to a character's emotional being. ``My life demands a power of perpetual adaptation,'' says Depardieu, who also rises above a deeply wounding canard by Time magazine which charged him with being a nine-year-old rapist. Much, much more--a descent into the maelstrom not to be missed. (Forty-eight b&w photographs--not seen)

Pub Date: March 18th, 1994
ISBN: 0-679-40943-2
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1994