Two Death Scenes of Jean-Pierre Léaud

Given the size and variety of Jean-Pierre Léaud’s filmography, 

there must be other memorable death scenes of his apart

from those in Jean-Luc Godard’s Made in USA (1966) and 

Albert Serra’s La mort de Louis XIV (2016), half a century 

apart. My reason for settling on these two is that they 

demonstrate his prodigious range. In the first — a very bizarre 

piece of anamorphic Pop Art self-described as “a political film, 

meaning Walt Disney plus blood” — he plays “Donald Siegel”, 

the abused sidekick of gangster “Richard Widmark” (Laszlo 

Szabo), comically sporting a button that declares “Kiss me I’m 

Italian”. He’s dispatched in a garage by Paula Nelson (Anna 

Karina), a detective investigating her lover’s murder. After 

Siegel pantomimes committing murders of his own and other 

criminal adventures as they’re being recounted by Nelson in 

voiceover, she asks him, “If you had to die, would you rather 

be warned or die suddenly?” He selects the latter and as soon 

as she obligingly plugs him, he shouts out “Mama!” and staggers 

extravagantly in long shot across most of the garage floor before 

finally expiring. It all takes a little over twelve seconds, whereas the 

less showy, more minimalistic and iconic finale as the eponymous 

Louis XIV, shown mainly in regal close-ups, lasts for virtually all of 

the film’s 116 minutes.  –Jonathan Rosenbaum

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