Sometimes people with multiple talents and predicates are left behind over one-quality people. This happens because multiple attention focuses divide the perception and awareness of qualities.
With that said, if you have one talented person, and a beautiful and equally talented person, you tend to say the ugly one is more talented because there’s a kind of division between the multiple talents. This was exactly what happened with Alain Delon throughout his career.
The French actor was always connoted with indubitable beauty, charisma, and arrogance, suffering from some bipolarity from the press and critics; they either deified him or they destroyed him. Credited as a prominent sex symbol in the 60s, Delon passed his career struggling between the “pretty face” label and the “good actor” praise.
At the start, his beauty was enough to ensure a cinema contract agreement, once the famous and controversial producer David O. Selznick offered him a contract deal based on his charismatic face, provided he learn English. Inspired by Marlon Brando, the young actor attracted the eyes of Melville, Visconti, Godard, Malle, and Antonioni, and built a very solid career, often being compared to Jean-Paul Belmondo, another landmark of French cinema.
He was very close to Brigitte Bardot, and Delon had a life of love and hatred simplified by his relationship with Cannes; he had some of the best moments of his career at the festival, but also some constraints, as he was not invited to some major events of the Cannes Film Festival.
Assumedly disappointed with the current film world, Delon is officially retired from films, but he would make an exception if Luc Besson or Roman Polanski enforced his services. While it hasn’t happened, Delon is more a brand than an actor, and he has his name associated with clothing, perfumes, glasses, and cigarettes.
Even if he is a little forgotten these days, Taste of Cinema doesn’t forget about real actors. So, these are the 10 best Alain Delon films you need to watch to understand he was/is a beast of an actor, and not a simple brand as it seems today.
10. The Swimming Pool (1969)
If you are the kind of viewer who always points out flaws in films, then this film is not for you. “The Swimming Pool” has lots of imperfections and was not made to be immaculate, but embodies a certain spirit of the 60s and is a pleasant film. The picky will say the scenery is not good, the script is uninspired, and the story is “common”, but the cast saves the day.
Furthermore, this is the typical case of a cast disguising all the rest. Maurice Ronet, Romy Schneider, and mainly, Alain Delon are left on their own and perform well. For a pleasing experience, some abstraction is needed as some lines skim the ridiculous, and “Swimming Pool” is poorly directed. Jacques Deray seems to have a fetish with “zoom ins” and “zoom outs”, which ends to be a little annoying after awhile.
9. The Last Adventure (1967)
Robert Enrico isn’t credited as an important filmmaker in France, but “The Last Adventure” is a piece worth watching. While lots of dull and desultory films were made in the nouvelle vague, Enrico captured a quite honest camaraderie spirit felt at the time with an emblematic adventure of Manu, Roland, and Laetitia. Delon, Lino Ventura and Joanna Shimkus are raiders of the storm of a timeless story, where many human beings have something to lose. By the way, the keyword here is humanity.
After its release, the film achieved some popularity, but critics weren’t properly appreciative of Enrico’s work. Thus, the film is now a lost gem and relevant only to Alain Delon aficionados.
Reminiscent of some Rivette flicks, “The Last Adventure” has a bittersweet atmosphere of joy and grief, but friendship is the main theme. The film also has one of the most iconic film sequences of the 60’s French cinema combined with a terrific score by François de Roubaix.
8. The Sicilian Clan (1969)
Charisma and charm in gangster films are like popcorn at the movies: it’s never too much. “The Sicilian Clan” unites Henri Verneuil at his top form with one of the best (if not the best) cinema score composers of all time, Ennio Morricone, and a magnificent cast: Lino Ventura as a French cop; Jean Gabin as a gangster leader; and, of course, Delon as an untimely and irascible robber. More than 40 years after its release, “The Sicilian Clan” is more of a cult film than a classic.
The film is like a pop song: catchy, pleasurable to hear, and entertaining. Delon was the shining star, delivering a cool and seductive performance, looking quite like Robert Redford in “The Sting” four years later. “The Sicilian Clan” is a jewel for heist story lovers, and moreover, the film’s cover says “behind every gun is The Sicilian Clan.” Just watch it!
7. Mr. Klein (1976)
Delon was present in an unusual number of good films that were quickly forgotten and lost. “Mr. Klein” is an exceptional film and is the main example of that phenomenon.
The film can be described as a dark Hitchcockian mystery mixed with Kafka’s identity problems, but it remains unique on its own merits, since it isn’t clearly a detective movie and there’s much to look around the plot and characters. Delon performs two roles and does an exquisite job as Mr. Robert Klein, along with the beautiful Jeanne Moreau.
“Mr. Klein” has also the particularity of being maybe the last truly good film with Delon in it. He was also in “Nouvelle Vague”, but the film doesn’t reach the same level as this picture does, and the rest was very degrading to Delon’s career. Crime films were very popular in France in the 70s, and that certainly helped to eclipse this film. However, this is one of the best films including Delon, so don’t be fooled by its lack of exposition.
6. The Leopard (1963)
Of course, “The Leopard” is one of best films of all time in its own genre (along with “Barry Lyndon”) and could be ranked higher, but this is an Alain Delon list and, even though he performed quite well, the French is completely obfuscated by Burt Lancaster, who is beyond flawless. Marlon Brando was also considered for the role.
Luchino Visconti does a terrific job directing this film and turning its three hours into a sumptuous and pleasurable experience, just like Stanley Kubrick did 12 years later with “Barry Lyndon”, or Nuri Bilge Ceylan with “Winter Sleep”. You simply don’t feel the time passing.
This is Martin Scorsese’s and Giuseppe Tornatore’s favorite film and a production with lots of stories to tell. The first reason is because Visconti wasn’t impressed with Lancaster, but was under obligation to cast him as he needed American funding, and the second reason is because the Italian director was such a fan of Delon that he provided everything he wanted on the set. Lancaster had to wait even to dress.