The actor Michel Bouquet, who has died aged 96, was by now center-aged by the time he identified fame taking part in baleful, corrupt or complacent figures in films by the New Wave provocateur Claude Chabrol. He was a cuckolded partner who kills his wife’s lover in La Femme Infidèle (The Unfaithful Wife, 1969) and an advertising government who unintentionally kills his own lover in Juste Avant La Nuit (Just Right before Nightfall, 1971). In involving, he did some of his wickedest get the job done as a wealthy tyrant besmirching his daughter-in-law’s name as he plots to get custody of his grandson in La Rupture (The Breach, 1970). Every of these movies paired him with the director’s wife, Stéphane Audran, and portrayed “the petit bourgeois home as unsparingly as Thérèse Raquin or Madame Bovary”, as the critic Nigel Andrews set it.

Bouquet lent the most unsavoury characters a persuasive inner daily life, even when they lingered only briefly on display. In François Truffaut’s Hitchcockian thriller The Bride Wore Black (1968), he was a person of the gentlemen murdered by a widow (Jeanne Moreau) seeking revenge for her husband’s loss of life. His demise is specially grisly – he expires on the floor of his seedy resort home immediately after becoming poisoned – but the actor conveyed hidden dimensions which produced the victim a plausibly pitiful determine, fairly than merely cannon fodder. (“I can rely on a single, no, two arms how numerous gals I have had,” he claims.) He was equally fine, although scarcely a lot more likable, as a detective in Truffaut’s Mississippi Mermaid (1969).

Bouquet and his wife, the French actor Juliette Carré, in 2016
Bouquet and his wife, the French actor Juliette Carré, in 2016. Photograph: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Pictures

Nevertheless numerous audiences to start with noticed Bouquet in his New Wave movies, he experienced decades of stage and monitor perform powering him by that issue. Even viewers who did not know the experience might have recognised the voice: his managed, emotionless tones were being listened to in Alain Resnais’s sobering Holocaust documentary Evening and Fog (1955). His narration was composed by Jean Cayrol, who survived the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp Truffaut identified as the 32-moment shorter “the most noble and important movie at any time made”.

Bouquet was born in Paris, to Georges, an officer in the French army, and Marie (nee Monot), a milliner. He labored as a baker and a lender clerk to aid assistance his household, then took acting classes at the age of 17 from the phase actor Maurice Escande. He enrolled at the Countrywide Conservatory of Dramatic Arts in Paris a function in the 1946 output of Jean Anouilh’s Le Rendez-vous de Senlis began an enduring association with that playwright which ongoing with Roméo et Jeanette in 1953.

Bouquet also aided to popularise the get the job done of Harold Pinter amongst French audiences, and was a tireless interpreter of Molière, Beckett and Ionesco he performed the guide purpose in Ionesco’s play Exit the King extra than 800 situations.

It was Anouilh who co-wrote the screenplay for Monsieur Vincent, which in 1947 provided Bouquet with 1 of his initial monitor roles, and gained the Oscar for ideal overseas film he played a consumptive reverse Pierre Fresnay as the 17th-century saint Vincent de Paul. In the exact same year, he was noticed as a killer in the drama Criminal Brigade.

He performed Louis X in Abel Gance’s La Tour de Nesle (1954) and a priest at a Catholic boarding college in Jean Delannoy’s Les Amitiés Particulières (Exclusive Friends, 1964). His initial movies with Chabrol — the knowingly absurd spy thrillers Le Tigre se Parfume à la Dynamite (Our Agent Tiger, 1965) and La Route de Corinthe (The Street to Corinth, 1968), which co-starred Jean Seberg – ended up rarely attribute of possibly of them, and gave little trace of the abundant collaboration forward.

In Borsalino, he was 3rd-billed as a lawyer on the path of gangsters performed by Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon, while he got a more substantial chunk of the cherry as the title character in The Cop (also 1970), which confirmed a disillusioned police officer using the legislation into his individual fingers a comprehensive 12 months prior to Clint Eastwood’s Soiled Harry did the same. The unsparing depiction of police brutality and corruption led the French minister of the inside, Raymond Marcellin, to call for the movie to be banned.

In the dreamlike horror Malpertuis (1971), Bouquet was a mysterious Uriah Heep-design figure who quivers with delight even though being abused and insulted Orson Welles and Susan Hampshire co-starred. He was an additional cop in the murky policier Deux Hommes Dans la Ville (Two Gentlemen in City, 1973), this time remorselessly hounding an ex-convict (Delon) in the fashion of Inspector Javert from Les Misèrables – whom he later on performed in Robert Hossein’s handsome 1982 film version, with Lino Ventura as his quarry Jean Valjean.

Theatre furnished him with a lot of of his most prestigious roles – he was offered with the ideal actor award by the French Critics’ Circle in 1976 for his efficiency in René de Obaldia’s Monsieur Klebs et Rosalie, and played Pozzo in Waiting around for Godot two yrs later.

Bouquet on the set of Juste Avant la Nuit with Claude Chabrol and Stéphane Audran.
Bouquet on the set of Juste Avant la Nuit with Claude Chabrol and Stephane Audran. Photograph: Michel Ginfray/Sygma/Getty Photos

On display screen, there was a delicious reunion with Chabrol in the thriller Cop au Vin (1985), with Bouquet as a dastardly law firm. Just as he had been “discovered” by the New Wave directors at the conclude of the 1960s, so he was now released to a new generation of cinemagoers by way of the imaginative and original Belgian comedy Toto the Hero (1991). Bouquet was the ageing, bitter narrator, who seems back again enviously on the life he would have relished experienced he not (as he believes) been swapped with a different toddler at delivery.

Extra plum components followed. The director Anne Fontaine had him in mind when she wrote How I Killed My Father (2001), in which she cast him as an estranged patriarch returning to France to complicate the lifetime of his son, played by Charles Berling. Bouquet won the greatest actor César for his efficiency in that film, and one more for actively playing France’s former president in The Last Mitterrand (2005).

He and Philippe Noiret reprised their phase roles as dyspeptic pensioners in Bertrand Blier’s movie of his very own enjoy Les Côtelletes (2003). In Renoir (2012), Bouquet was agreeably spry as the elderly artist opposite Vincent Rottiers as his movie-maker son, Jean, and Christa Théret as their muse. At 91, he was back on stage in Paris as Orgon in Molière’s Tartuffe.

He is survived by his wife, the actor Juliette Carré, whom he married in 1970. His initial relationship, to the actor Ariane Borg, finished in divorce.

Michel François Pierre Bouquet, actor, born 6 November 1925 died 13 April 2022