Bernadette Lafont

French-cinema icon

If Brigitte Bardot was the face of French new-wave cinema and François Truffaut its brain, then Bernadette Lafont could easily be considered the movement's soul. The French actress appeared in some 120 films, beginning with her 1957 debut in Truffaut's Les Mistons. Lafont never had any formal training in acting, which helped her embody the naturalistic portrayal of life that directors of the new wave--including Truffaut and fellow Frenchman Claude Chabrol--so greatly coveted. Truffaut, who died in 1984, once called her "the most arousing actress of the French cinema."

Though heralded for her sensuality, Lafont was an accomplished actress whose talents...

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