Once revered as the personification of modern, European masculinity, Alain Delon remains an indisputable emblem of French cinema. With an allure that is entirely in keeping with the poetry of his personages, his image still lingers within our cultural consciousness. Though the admiration of the artist cannot be reduced to the impact of this allure — for it is in the subtle nuances of his interpretations that his performances still move us — it is with due acknowledgment that the actor will receive an honorary Palme d’Or, at this year’s 72nd Cannes Film Festival.
“With his charisma, his eyes, and his expression of tension, Delon’s acting is a genre in itself,” the festival declared. Following the likes of Bertolucci or Belmondo, this year, the award serves as an homage to ‘[Delon’s] wonderful presence in the history of film’ that will proceed. Having graced the Croisette for several years throughout his youth — in light of Clément’s “Purple Noon” or Deray’s “La Piscine” — the honour was inevitable.
In 1962, Delon’s roles extended to the realm of Italian cinema, where he portrayed a restless lover in Antonioni’s L’Eclisse, opposite Monica Vitti. As the film remains moving in both its visual and atmospheric richness, Delon’s performance delivers a kinetic quality, epitomizing the materialist ethos of an age. Portraying a character typical of Antonioni (perpetually involved with only his own monetary desires), Delon perfectly embodies the spirit of a man, who, though romantically involved, remains emotionally detached. Though never forsaking his native cinema throughout his career, his cinematic choices further exemplified this sense of on-screen minimalism, with performances deemed as subtle as they were emotively potent.