Gérard Philipe and Other Beloved Actors

Saturday 20 January – Sunday 7 April, 2024

Gérard Philipe (1922-1959) burst onto the French film scene of the 1940s’ Poetic Realism movement and enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame. With his unparalleled good looks and charisma, he captivated audiences worldwide in roles such as Prince Myshkin in The Idiot (1946), adapted from Dostoevsky’s novel, and the young lead in Devil in the Flesh (1947), in which he starred alongside Micheline Presle. He also proved himself an adept stage actor who brought grace and elegance to whatever role he played, earning him the sobriquet of “flawless diamond.”

In 1953, Philipe, already one of France’s leading stars at the time, visited Japan to attend the inaugural French Film Festival (the first large-scale event to be held since the end of the war), where he received an enthusiastic welcome. While there, he formed a close friendship with Nagamasa and Kashiko Kawakita and took a deep interest in Japanese cinema and culture.

After playing the role of Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani in Montparnasse 19 (1958) – based on the last years of Modigliani’s life in Paris before his untimely death at the age of 35 – Philipe himself passed away suddenly the following year, aged only 36, prompting an outpouring of grief from around the world.

Focusing mainly on materials related to Philipe, the centenary of whose birth fell in 2022, this exhibition also looks at some of the most enduring works of his contemporaries to provide a snapshot of the golden age of European cinema around the time of his rise to prominence.