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Delphine Seyrig

Delphine Seyrig

Thanks to the two most famous roles of her career—the enigmatic woman referred to only as A in Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad and the middle-aged widow stuck in domestic routine in Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles—Delphine Seyrig is often thought of as an inscrutable performer. But this versatile French actress was also capable of great emotional immediacy and openness in her roles. The daughter of an archaeologist, Seyrig was a cosmopolite at a young age, having already lived in Lebanon, New York, and the south of France by the time she was twenty. She then studied acting in both France and the United States (at the Actors Studio). Her first screen performance was in the 1958 beat generation short Pull My Daisy, also featuring Jack Kerouac and Allan Ginsberg, shot in New York. A few years later, Last Year at Marienbad—in which Seyrig plays a woman wandering the fever-dream-like interior of a château, where she may or may not have been before—made her an icon of the French New Wave. She would go on appear in films by François Truffaut (Stolen Kisses, one of her most romantic parts), William Klein (she was never more delightfully off-kilter than in the satiric Mr. Freedom), Luis Buñuel (as the ever-gracious hostess in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie), Joseph Losey, Jacques Demy, Akerman, and other important film directors of the sixties and seventies. She died in 1990, at fifty-eight.