Wiry and darkly handsome French actor Pierre Clementi died of liver cancer Dec. 27 in Paris. He was 57.
A counterculture icon whose mere presence in a movie often hinted at impulses dark and dissolute, Clementi lent his ascetic demeanor to films by the cream of European directors, starting in 1960.
Perhaps best known for his role as Catherine Deneuve’s sadistic metal-toothed client in “Belle de Jour” (1967), Clementi first made his mark onscreen as the son of Prince Salina in Luchino Visconti’s “The Leopard” (1963).
The son of a concierge and an unknown father, Paris-born Clementi was steered toward acting when the director of the reform school he’d been sent to at age 13 encouraged him to recite and record poetry. Clementi’s charismatic blend of street-smart menace and inspired dandy endeared him to the artistic and intellectual crowd of Left Bank Paris in the late 1950s and early ’60s.
After studying at the Cours Dullin drama academy and embracing the visceral techniques then being taught at the American Center, Clementi was cast in films in France and Italy.
In addition to features by Yves Allegret, Michel Deville and Costa Gavras, Clementi’s 40-plus screen roles included noteworthy performances in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Porcile” (1969), Luis Bunuel’s “The Milky Way” (1969), Liliana Cavani’s “I Cannibali” (1969) and Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Conformist” (1970).
Clementi also appeared in Dusan Makavejev’s “Sweet Movie,” Jacques Rivette’s “Pont du Nord,” James Ivory’s “Quartet,” James Toback’s “Exposed” and Yves Boisset’s 1983 Lee Marvin-starrer “Dog Day.” Most recently, Clementi excelled as a casually decadent Frenchman in Jane Campion’s “Hideous Kinky.”
Clementi, who directed four experimental and underground films of his own between 1967 and 1988, was also noted for his distinctive stage work as a writer and performer.
Arrested at Cinecitta in 1971 on charges of drug use and possession, Clementi spent 17 months in prison before being released due to insufficient proof.
He is survived by his companion, Claudine Leclerc, and two children.