Parisian born Pierre Clémenti could be simultaneously beautiful and grotesque, savage and tender, perverse and poetic. He was an enigma, a genius and one of the best screen actors I have ever seen. By the time of his death in 1999, Clémenti had worked with many of the greatest European filmmakers, spent time in prison, penned a book, directed his own underground films, and had even got name-checked in a song by Patti Smith, and yet he still never managed to truly break through with English language audiences like many of his peers.
My favorite performance from Pierre Clémenti can be found in Bernardo Bertolucci's dazzling and frustrating Godard inspired Partner (1968). While his work from the same period for filmmakers like Bunuel and Pasolini might have gained more attention, Clémenti as the double Giacobbe is a performance of astonishing force and veers successfully from the absurd to the surreal to finally something achingly human. Partner might well be the most flawed of Bertolucci's great films but with Clémenti he found one of his ideal performers and it is still breathtaking watching this strangely unhinged, and yet supremely controlled, artist all the years later.
The best way to see Partner is via No Shame's now out of print double-disc set that came out several years back. It's filled with a number of enlightening extras and has some haunting behind the scenes clips of Clémenti, an artist who was at his peak in 1968 when the footage was captured.
-Jeremy Richey, 2012-