26 March 2016

Jean-Marc Barr

Attractive French-American actor Jean-Marc Barr (1960) is best known for his roles for Lars von Trier in Europa/Zentropa (1991), Breaking the Waves (1996) and Dogville (2003).

Jean-Marc Barr
French postcard by Editions Champs Libres, no. ST 116, 1989.

The Big Blue

Jean-Marc Barr was born in Bitburg, Germany, in 1960. His father was American and his mother French and he is fluent in both French and English. His father, working in the US Armed Forces, was stationed in West-Germany. The family moved to California in 1974.

In 1978, Barr graduated from Mission Bay High School in San Diego, California. Barr's parents wished him to join the armed forces but he was unwilling to follow in his father's footsteps. He studied philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles, the Paris Conservatoire and the Sorbonne. He moved to London to pursue an education in drama at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Barr made his film debut as Absalom in King David (Bruce Beresford, 1985) with Richard Gere. He began working in theatre in France in 1986. He soon found work in television including a small role in Hotel du Lac (1986), the BBC's version of the Booker prize-winning novel by Anita Brookner. He also appeared in the films Hope and Glory (John Boorman, 1987) and Maurice (James Ivory, 1987).

He had his breakthrough when he was cast in the tremendously successful French film Le Grand bleu/The Big Blue (Luc Besson, 1988). He played French diver Jacques Mayol, alongside Rosanna Arquette and Jean Reno. Le Grand bleu became the most financially successful film in France in the 1980s.

At IMDb, Luis Filipe dos Reis Peres tries to describe the special effect the film has on its viewers: “I never before saw a film that I could identify myself so much with. I´m lucky enough to live in a place near the sea very similar and as beautiful as those in the movie and the opening scenes always remind me of my teenage years and the waters I explored like young Jacques Mayol does in the beginning of the movie. (...) I guess that´s the beauty of this movie. It makes us feel that we could be any of its characters, because they´re so real. We almost can´t believe that they don´t exist outside of the movie. This is an amazing, beautifully well written, acted, photographed and directed movie! It carries us into an extraordinary world.”

Jean-Marc Barr in Le Grand Bleu (1988)
French postcard by Ciné Passion, no. GB 7. Photo: publicity still for Le Grand Bleu (Luc Besson, 1988).

Jean-Marc Barr, Rosanna Arquette and Luc Besson at the set of Le Grand Bleu (1988)
French postcard by Especially for you, Ref. 30. Photo: publicity still for Le Grand Bleu (Luc Besson, 1988). Jean-Marc Barr, Rosanna Arquette and Luc Besson on the set.

Jean Reno with director and cast Le Grand Bleu in Cannes
French postcard by News Productions, Beaulmes, no 56063. Photo: Eric Coiffier. Director and cast of Le Grand Bleu (Luc Besson, 1988) at the Festival de Cannes, 1988. With in the front row from left to right: Marc Duret, Jean-Marc Barr, Rosanna Arquette, Luc Besson, Sergio Castellitto and Andréas Voutsinas.


In 1991, Jean-Marc Barr starred opposite Barbara Sukowa and Udo Kier in Danish director Lars von Trier's Europa/Zentropa. It marked the beginning of a long friendship as well as a significant professional relationship. He went on to appear in Von Trier’s Breaking the Waves (1996) with Emily Watson, Dancer in the Dark (2000) with Björk and Catherine Deneuve, Dogville (2004), Manderlay (2005), Direktøren for det hele/The Boss of It All (2006) and both parts of Nymph()maniac (2013) with Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Jean-Marc Barr appeared as the main character in the video for Blur's single, Charmless Man (1995). Films in which he starred were The Scarlet Tunic (Stuart St. Paul, 1997) and J'aimerais pas crever un dimanche/Don't Let Me Die on a Sunday (Didier Le Pêcheur, 1999) with Élodie Bouchez.

Barr’s collaboration with Lars von Trier put him on track to start directing his own work in the Dogme95 style. He debuted as a director, screenwriter and producer with the intimate love story Lovers (1999). The film became the first part of a trilogy, together with the drama Too Much Flesh (2000) and the comedy Being Light (2001), which he both co-directed with Pascal Arnold. Barr and Arnold also directed Chacun sa nuit/One to another (2006), American Translation (2011) and Sexual Chronicles of a French Family (2012).

As an actor he appeared as Hugo in La sirène rouge/The Red Siren (Olivier Megaton, 2002) opposite Asia Argento, as divorce lawyer Maitre Bertram in the Merchant Ivory film Le Divorce (James Ivory, 2003) and as the studly, horny 'island plumber' Didier in the witty comedy Crustacés et Coquillages/Cockles & Muscles (Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau, 2005).

More recently, he played Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac in the film adaptation of Kerouac’s autobiographical novel Big Sur (Michael Polish, 2013). Nathan Southern at AllMovie: “the Polish movie nails Kerouac's paradigm in its many different guises, including the exhilaration of his road cruises with his buddies, the zen of his naturalism, and his creative impotence and inner sexual death. Those assets shouldn't be underestimated, particularly in light of the many individuals over the years who have branded Kerouac's work ‘unfilmable’; Polish proves them wrong. And the lead performances are outstanding across the board. Jean-Marc Barr evokes the real Kerouac (visually and emotionally) with such approximation that we may feel we're watching a documentary.”

Jean-Marc Barr was married to Irina Decermic. He is the godfather of the children of Lars von Trier.

Trailer Le Grand Bleu/The Big Blue (1988). Source: Chaîne de adamparks55 (YouTube).

Trailer Europa/Zentropa (1991). Source: Cine Danés (YouTube).

Trailer Big Sur (2013). Source: Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films (YouTube).

Sources: Nathan Southern (AllMovie), Luis Filipe dos Reis Peres (IMDb), Wikipedia and IMDb.

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