best film:   Alain Delon has eleven (11) total archiveable films and all but three (3) deserve at least a glance at this category. The heavyweights and serious contenders in this category are numerous as well. One might as well start with the Luchino Visconti collaborations: Rocco and His Brothers and The Leopard. The Leopard was made at the height of the era for the epic genre – Visconti’s masterpiece stakes a legitimate claim to be named one of cinema’s most beautiful films. As if those two big films were not enough, the Jean-Pierre Melville Delon films are all astonishing, with Le Samouraï leading the way. L’Eclisse is the magnificent finale to Antonioni’s Incommunicability Trilogy with L’Avventura and La Notte. Delon is barely in the first 50 minutes – again typical of Antonioni – but Delon makes the most of his time.


Delon as Tancredi Falconeri in Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard


best performance:  It is between Rocco and His Brothers, Le Samouraï,  Purple Noon as far as Alain Delon’s best single performance is concerned. Delon plays Rocco – the center of Visconti’s brilliant sort of Greek tragedy.  It is a saga about five brothers – the Parondi brothers – it covers all five brothers with their own chapters (but they intersect of course a great deal) over the course of a decade. It is ambitious, powerful storytelling and Visconti pairs that with a handsomely mounted large cinematic canvas. The every so slight knock on Delon would be that he does not deliver the best performance in Rocco (Girardot), L’Eclisse (Monica Vitti) or The Leopard (Burt Lancaster).


Delon alongside Annie Girardot as Nadia. At the 114 minutes mark is the very strong cathedral set-piece sequence – the rooftop of Milan’s Duomo. Visconti creating an angle with the camera to create a rich backdrop to the drama happening in the foreground. Girardot and Delon give the best performances in the film


Purple Noon. Delon does Tom Ripley and he is sublime.  Here he is very expressive – unlike Le Samourai or L’Eclisse.  This is a different kind of a beautiful vacant character.


stylistic innovations/traits:  Alain Delon is just about perfect looking and he used those looks (and certainly underrated talent) to carve out a astonishing run from 1960 to 1967. He would continue on with high quality work until 1976 where he would make his last archiveable film at relatively young age (just past forty years old) for an actor who did not retire or die young – but it really that stretch from 1960 to 1967 – at the height of cinema’s long history – that he will be remembered for. Remarkably, Delon was a French actor (the best of all-time) who worked during the height of the French New Wave (1959 to 1967) yet does not have an archiveable film with either François Truffaut or Jean-Luc Godard. Perhaps Delon’s looks diminished a little when he turned forty – or perhaps he just lost interest a little – or maybe it was just because his trusted collaborators retired, or passed away (Melville passed in 1973, Visconti in 1976). Still, despite the relatively short stretch of time – Delon left his mark on cinema history. His top five is enviable – and spilling out of that top five is his work in The Leopard and two winners from Melville (The Red Circle and Un Flic) to flank their work together in Le Samouraï


directors worked with:  Jean-Pierre Melville (3), Luchino Visconti (2), René Clément (1), Michelangelo Antonioni (1)


Delon could most definitely play ice cold stoic – here in Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï.


top five performances:

  1. Rocco and His Brothers
  2. Le Samouraï
  3. Purple Noon
  4. L’Eclisse
  5. Mr. Klein


archiveable films

1960- Purple Noon
1960- Rocco and His Brothers
1962- L’Eclisse
1963- The Leopard
1965- Once a Thief
1967- Le Samourai
1970- The Red Circle
1971- Red Sun
1972- Un Flic
1973- Scorpio
1976- Mr. Klein