7 landmark performances by Jean-Pierre Léaud

#3 – PIGSTY (1969) by Pier Paolo Pasolini
One thing that should be clear to anyone even passively observant of the evolution of Léaud as an actor is that he soon settled for the typecasting in roles that accentuated his natural charisma as a pseudo-intellectual. Depending on the situation of the narrative of his films, this was for better or worse, although in the case of his most memorable roles it was indeed for worse. This is meant in the sense that the most memorable of the characters he played were never completely likable. But Léaud was not a studio actor. In many ways, the fact that he got an early start, meant that his existence was parallel with that of cinema. This is perhaps what makes his presence in films feel so natural. This perhaps is also why his acting never truly feels like acting.
In Pigsty by Pier Paolo Pasolini, he does arguably the least acting, in the traditional theatrical sense, he has ever done. The camera merely has to point in his direction to reveal him as a snobby, frissy bourgeois. This has to do with the vibe of the film, a meticulously calculated and deeply, dark, disturbing deadpan comedy. (That’s right, Pigsty can easily be deemed a comedy, fitting with Pasolini’s boundless views of cinematic genre, and categorization of art as a whole.)
He is a skinny, boneless young man, who escapes his former-Nazi father grips by entertaining a perverse farmyard hobby. Léaud’s turn is, hence, visceral. It is physical and iconoclastic. He exists in body form, which is interesting considering the film’s theme of cannibalism, more clearly exhibited in the film’s second, intertwining storyline. His absolute detachment to the purposefully banal and wordy dialogue he delivers, however, is exactly what is required.

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