Daily | Lou Castel @ 70

Lou Castel

Lou Castel in ‘Fists in the Pocket’ (1965)

Fists in the Pocket, a gasp-inducing, mouth-frothing, black-comic attack on bourgeois values, is remembered first and foremost as a shocking debut from director Marco Bellocchio,” wrote Michael Koresky for Criterion last year. “But it gave its star, Lou Castel, a memorable entrance of his own: he literally falls into frame from above. He has leapt from a tree, and he establishes, in just one second of screen time, his antihero Alessandro’s physicality, unpredictability, and primitiveness. And he’ll go on to add a few more characteristics to that list—spitefulness, neuroticism, rage, haughtiness, and murderousness, to name just a few. Castel’s is one of those performances that not only enhances a film but defines it.” The appreciation’s accompanied by a clip (2’48”) that pretty well seals the deal.

“Lou Castel was born Ulv Quarzéll in Columbia (Bogota) on May 28, 1943 to an Irish father and an Italian mother,” begins today’s 70th birthday salute from the Fassbinder Foundation. “He moved to Europe as a young man and began training as an actor at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome…. In Beware of a Holy Whore (1970) he plays Fassbinder’s alter ego, the tyrannical director Jeff, who in turn has to deal with his moody production manager Sascha—played by RWF himself.”

Castel’s first onscreen role was as an uncredited extra in Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard (1963). Between Fists and Beware, he appeared with Klaus Kinski in Damiano Damiani’s A Bullet for the General (1966) and with Pier Paolo Pasolini in Carlo Lizzani’s spaghetti western Requiescant (1967). For Wim Wenders, he was Rev. Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter (1973) and Rodolphe in The American Friend (1977). He worked with Mariangela Melato and Delphine Seyrig in Mario Monicelli’s Caro Michele in 1976, the same year he played a Swedish terrorist in the Europudding disaster flick The Cassandra Crossing. 1985 saw Castel working with Raúl Ruiz in Treasure Island. And in 1996, he played José Mirano in Irma Vep, a film whose inspiration director Olivier Assayas credits first and foremost to Beware of a Holy Whore. Castel’s now living in Italy, still acting, but painting as well.

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