Isabelle Adjani: a star in chiaroscuro

Both mysterious and popular, the actress celebrated her 66 years and nearly 50 years of career, between shadow and light. Since his early beginnings in the cinema, his highs have been dizzying heights, his lows, disturbing depths …

Adjani’s life is a roller coaster with a rugged topography. Huge success, resounding failures, mourning, ruptures, metamorphoses, disappearances, returns to favor, with her, everything is linked at high speed, with an intensity that some say mystical. The free star lives to the rhythm of her heart beating fast and strong. In the coming months, her sublime blue eyes will once again shine on screens. On June 30, three days after her 66th birthday, she was found alongside Rachida Brakni and Maïwenn in her friend Yamina Benguigui’s second film in twenty years, Sisters.Then it will be Masquerade by Nicolas Bedos with François Cluzet and Pierre Niney, Peter of Kantby François Ozon and Diane from Poitiers,historical mini-series shot by Josée Dayan for France 2. Coming back from everything, from her moods like rumors (in January 1987, she invited herself to the 20 hours of TF1 to silence the noise which announces it sick of AIDS, and even dead), it keeps an intact aura. We have to believe that the inner fire of the tragic actress, kindled in the heart of adolescence, never quite consumed her.

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She met the theater for the first time when she was barely 15 years old. She is at the Paul-Lapie high school in Courbevoie, where she goes Deceits of Scapin,reserving the title role, since the school is not mixed. Already noticed, she was recommended to Bernard Toublanc-Michel, who hired her for his film The Petit Bougnat(1970). Papa Adjani, convinced that only studies count, is worried. And reprimand. “My life was very demoralizing, difficult, with a depressive and repressive father, whom I adored but who hardly gave me any possibilities to have confidence in myself, will explain the actress. He tested me without ever reassuring me. I lived in great anxiety. “And in the lie, that his mother of Bavarian origin, Augusta, known as Gusti, had very early installed in the family. Denying the Algerian origins of her husband born in Constantine, whom she could not stand, she claimed him Turkish and called him Chérif rather than Mohammed, because “It looked American”. It was also her mother who chose her first name, against the advice of her father who preferred Yasmine.

Torn in this complicated family that does not encourage her, the teenager, however, convinces at first glance, at first gestures on stage or in front of the camera, that she is already an actress. The year of the bac, she plays for Nina Companeez, for Raymond Rouleau, then for Robert Hossein, before joining the Comédie-Française, where the young members André Dussollier and Francis Huster successively become her intimate companions … François Truffaut succeeds to make him leave the French in 1975 to shoot under his direction The Story of Adèle H.Its performance impresses.

She is just 20 years old and already whets fantasies that are beyond her. She, the modest young woman, whose parents confuse stardom and indecency. To play is then for Isabelle a transgression. She forgets her “Vocation”, “to go elsewhere, to help others”, as a judge for children or as a missionary. On the heart, she has just met Bruno Nuytten, renowned cinematographer, on the set of Baroque by André Téchiné, with whom she will have her first son, Barnabé, born in 1979. It is he who convinces her to accept the role of Eliane in Murderous summer(1983), despite the nudity scenes that would displease his parents. The film brings her her second César for Best Actress, after Possession by Polanski and before Camille Claudel (“The milestone film for which I am known and recognized”), Queen Margot and Skirt Day.

About the men in her life, Isabelle, who lived from 1986 to 1988 with the American star Warren Beatty, later said: “The only two I have passionately loved are the fathers of my two sons. ” After Nuytten, the second will be Daniel Day-Lewis, an actor whose intense performances evoke those of Adjani. Both are the parents of Gabriel-Kane, born in 1995, a few months after their separation which will plunge her into a deep depression and make her leave France to take refuge in Switzerland, where she will begin a psychoanalysis. In 1999, she made a triumphant return to the theater thanks to Hossein who made her her Lady of Camellias. “Every night the miracle took place. Every evening, the public was sensitive to a totally authentic actress, who reminds me of the great ones like Sarah Bernhardt ”,will say the director of his beginnings.

Then began for the actress two decades between shadow and light. On the one hand, box office failures (La Repentie, Adolphe, Bon voyage),aborted projects (with Alain Delon, Isabelle Mergault or Yamina Benguigui) and ruptures (in 2004, she revealed in Paris Match the infidelity of his companion Jean-Michel Jarre with Anne Parillaud and mediatizes their separation). On the other hand, his successful return with Skirt Day, his side steps in Mammuth,series Ten percent Where The world is yoursin which she plays the leader of a gang of women pickpockets! And there is always this mystery that she cleverly maintains around her person, giving herself little and wearing big hat and dark glasses so that the photographers do not steal from her. “A little bit of soul”.

Single, she confided four years ago: “I’m fine, I feel good in my body, happiness comes to me from within. “


In 1983, the year of Deadly hike and of Murderous summer, Isabelle Adjani records her first album, with Serge Gainsbourg. She co-wrote the lyrics for five tracks, including Pull marine, which became a hit. Another striking extract from this record, Beau oui comme Bowie. Over the years, she then recorded duets for television, a track with Jacques Higelin, another with Pascal Obispo for the ten years of Sidaction, a track on an opus by her son Barnabé’s group and, recently, a version of Exactly under the sun on the album The Pianos of Gainsbourg by André Manoukian.

This article was published in Nous Deux magazine number 3860.

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