French acting treasure dies at 68

Anémone - queen of comedy and drama

by Richard Mowe

The redoubtable Anémone in one of her last roles in Rosalie Blum by Julien Rappeneau
The redoubtable Anémone in one of her last roles in Rosalie Blum by Julien Rappeneau Photo: Unifrance
One of France’s best-loved actresses, simply known as Anémone (real name Anne Bourguignon), has died at the age of 68.

Anémone started in her career with Philippe Garrel in the Sixties
Anémone started in her career with Philippe Garrel in the Sixties Photo: Unifrance
She took her solo name from the film Anémone by Phlippe Garrel in which she played the title role of a young girl from a Parisian bourgeois family. The film was made for TV in 1968 but the producer rejected it as being “too pessmistic” and it remained unseen until the Société Nationale des Arts organised some public cinema screenings. It has not been shown since 2003 amid a legal wrangle.

It set the actress off on a decades long career in both theatre and cinema, beginning on the boards with the Splendid comedy troupe who made a cult cinema hit as Thérèse in Le Père Noël est Une Ordure alongside fellow Splendid compatriot Thierry Lhermitte and others. The influential cafe-theatre group proved a fertile launch pad. She seemed to have a natural affinity for comedy and made her name in such titles as Ma Femme S’Appelle Reviens, Les Babas-cool, and For 200 Grand, You Get Nothing Now (Pour Cent Briques, T’As Plus Rien).

The daughter of psychiatrist father and a mother who was also on stage, she took on a more serious role in 1988 as Marcelle in Jean-Loup Hubert’s The Grand Highway (Le Grand Chemin), which won her a César award as best actress.

Director Tonie Marshall hired her for roles in her films Pas Très Catholique and Bastard Brood (Enfant De Salaud) while Roger Planchon gave her a costume epic opportunity in Lautrec.

Her screen appearances numbered more than 70, among the most memorable being You Won't Have Alsace-Lorraine (Vous N'Aurez Pas l'Alsace Et La Lorraine) by Coluche, Viens Chez Moi, J’Habite Chez Une Copine by Patrice Leconte (1981), Le Quart D'Heure Américain and Marriage Of The Century (Le Mariage Du Siècle) by Philippe Galland (1985), I Love You by Marco Ferreri (1986), Les Baisers De Secours by Philippe Garrel (1989), and La Belle Histoire from Claude Lelouch (1992).

A theatre and cinema actress, Anémone managed to be both 'seductive and madcap at the same time'
A theatre and cinema actress, Anémone managed to be both 'seductive and madcap at the same time' Photo: Unifrance
In the last decade, she was in productions as diverse as Little Nicholas (Le Petit Nicolas) by Laurent Tirard (2009), Jacky In The Kingdom Of Women (Jacky Au Royaume Des Filles) by Riad Sattouf (2013), Le Grimoire d'Arkandias by Julien Simonet and Alexandre Castagnetti (2014), The Roommates Party (Le Grand Partage) by Alexandra Leclère and Rosalie Blum from Julien Rappeneau (2016). She announced her retirement in 2017 just as her last feature role in Anne Le Ny’s Family Business (La Monnaie De leur Pièce) was released in cinemas. Her death yesterday (30 April) after a long illness was announced by her agent Elisabeth Tanner.

Members of the Splendid troupe were quick to pay tribute, with Christian Clavier saying that they had shared “some wonderful moments and had had great laughs together.” Josiane Balasko described her as a “true eccentric” and “a great actress.” Michel Blanc pointed to her “powerful sense of comedy” as well her ability to be both “seductive and madcap at the same time”.

Although adored in France she was not so well known abroad, especially in the English-speaking world. Frédérique Bredin, the head of the French film body, the CNC, described her as “exceptional” and as someone who would remain “forever in our hearts.”

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