Michel Subor

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Michel Subor
Topaz wounded Subor Jade Robin.jpg
Michel Subor with Dany Robin and Claude Jade in Topaz (1969)
Born (1935-02-02) 2 February 1935 (age 81)
Years active 1955 - 2009

Michel Subor (French pronunciation: ​[miʃɛl sybɔʁ], born Mischa Subotzki (2 February 1935), is a French actor who gained initial fame playing the lover of Brigitte Bardot's character in La Bride sur le Cou (1961). The year before he had completed a starring role in Jean-Luc Godard's second feature, Le Petit Soldat, but the French government banned it until 1963 because of its political content, touching on terrorism during the undeclared Algerian War. He acted in a couple of American films in the late 1960s like as Claude Jade's husband in Alfred Hitchcock's Topaz. In 1999, he made Beau Travail, a highly praised variation of Billy Budd, directed by Claire Denis. He continued to work with her.

Early life and education[edit]

He was born as Mischa Subotzki in France in 1935, to anti-Bolshevik parents from the Soviet Union who had immigrated a few years earlier. His father was an engineer in Moscow, and his mother was born in Azerbaijan. Michel Subor has a sister who moved to the United States as an adult.[1]


Subor's most important early role was as Bruno Forestier, a French deserter in Geneva in Jean-Luc Godard's Le Petit Soldat (1960), set against terrorist acts in France and Switzerland during the guerre sans nom of the Algerian War. The film starred Anna Karina in her debut. Due to its politically sensitive content, the French government banned its release until 1963, after the end of the war. A new print was released in 2012.[2] The critic Roger Ebert wrote that "Godard, in 1960, making a film about the Algerian War, was portraying the sort of intellectual and moral confusion that good men have when they confront senseless events."[3]

In 2005 Jacques Mandelbaum described Subor in Le Monde as one of the greatest actors in French cinema, but said that his roles in the 1960s and 1970s were not "as favorable, ambiguous, fascinating as the Little Soldier."[1]

The film has received renewed attention from critics in the 21st century for its style and content, which had references to both French government-sponsored and terrorist (Algerian insurgents torture. The topic attracted interest given the controversy beginning that year with the release of the new United States film, Zero Dark Thirty (2012), directed by Kathryn Bigelow. This included scenes of CIA torture of a detainee at a black site to try to gain intelligence about terrorist acts and leaders.[2]

Subor worked with the director Paul Gégauff, in The Reflux (1965), adapted from a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. But the producer had not acquired the rights and the film was left unfinished in 1965.[1] Subor was also cast in American films, appearing in Clive Donner's comedy What's New, Pussycat? (1965) as the lover Philippe. In 1968/69 he starred in Alfred Hitchcock's Topaz (1969), featured as the journalist François Picard, the husband of the character played by Claude Jade. Hitchcock changes Subor's role and let François Picard survive the assassination attempt from the novel, so he returns wounded ("I've been shot, just a little") into Claude Jade's arms.

He appeared in Jean-Louis Bertucelli's The Imprecator (1977) and Gérard Blain's The Rebel (1980), but felt he never made the transition to mainstream cinema. Blain used Subor again in Amen he (1999).[1]

That year's renewal of Subor's career included a role in Claire Denis's Beau Travail, as a Foreign Legion captain named Bruno Forestier. (Denis named his character after the role he played in the Godard film.) Denis' variation of Billy Budd, set in Djibouti on the Red Sea, received high praise.[4] The next year he was in Wild Innocence (2000) directed by Philippe Garrel.[1]

Subor has since worked with Denis on other films, including The Intruder (2005).[5] She said of him: "Michel Subor is not a celebrity in L'Intrus; he is the intruder." ("Sur le plateau de L'Intrus, il a captivé tout le monde, mais personne n'a voulu percer son mystère. Michel Sobor n'est pas le personnage de L'Intrus, il est L'Intrus.")[1] He also had a major role in her White Material in 2009, which was set in an unnamed country in Africa.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Michel Subor, 'Little Soldier' for Godard, has never been able to resolve the mercenary" (Michel Subor, Petit Soldat pour Godard, n'a jamais pu se resoudre au mercenariat), Le Monde, 5 March 2005, Quote: "Il n'en est pas moins un des plus grands acteurs du cinéma français.", accessed 22 June 2013, in French
  2. ^ a b Scott Foundas, "Beauty and Controversy in Godard’s 'Le Petit Soldat': One hundred thousand truths", The Village Voice, 14 March 2013, accessed 22 June 2013
  3. ^ Roger Ebert, "'Le Petit Soldat'", Chicago Sun-Times, 1 March 1960 (1969, according to references in the article), hosted at Roger Ebert.com, accessed 22 June 2013
  4. ^ Amy Taubin, "Body Language/Claire Denis’s Band of Outsiders", The Village Voice, 28 March 2000, accessed 22 June 2013
  5. ^ a b c Dennis Lim, "'Troubled in Paradise:' A metaphysical adventure tale, Claire Denis's latest is a masterwork of poetic elusiveness", The Village Voice, 13 December 2005, accessed 22 June 2013

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