“I dwell on the past more than I think about the future, yes, because my past was extraordinary. Today just doesn’t compare. A life like I had doesn’t come around twice. That’s why when it comes to retirement, I have no regrets.”
– Alain Delon to GQ
The ultimate lover of the silver screen, a golden God of French cinema. As an actor and fashion icon, Delon reportedly reached his prime in the fifties and sixties, defining film of the era and the nation by way of his cool expression, statuesque proportions and steely blue eyes.
Fifty to sixty years later, Monsieur Delon has gone into contented retirement. The best years are over, and the age of Delon is no more… Or is it?
Delon himself says it has come to an end. In a recent interview with Paris Match Magazine, the turbulent eighty-two year old actor declared that he is ready for death to take him. “I hate the times that we live in,” he said, translated from French, “it makes me vomit… I will leave this world without regret.” Yet, unbeknownst to the aging film star, ‘the times that we live in’ are retaining his glory days and his own status as a cult film legend. For the truth is Delon is alive and well — on thousands of brightly lit Instagram feeds.
“The first time you ever see this man, damn it’s hard to forget.”
“It was actually this exact gif,” Instagram handle @thesilverclassics says, referring to a moving image of Alain Delon in Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard (1963). “I was just staring at my Instagram page… That same date was my first post of him.” The moving image shows a slight zoom of the camera on a debonair Delon, one blue eye gleaming, the other covered by a black band as he smirks and gives a slight wink. “I fell in love immediately with that cheeky look of his. I remember perfectly because, well.. The first time you ever see this man, damn it’s hard to forget.”
And so it seems to be with @thesilverclassics and many, many other Instagram users. As of January 19th, 2018, #alaindelon has graced 60,725 posts, surpassing hashtags for Clark Gable, Cary Grant, and Gary Cooper. Among these many instagram users, approximately fifty of them exist solely as Alain Delon fan pages. Together these accounts amass more than 30,000 followers, not including the 15,000 plus followers of Monsieur Delon’s ‘official account’, managed by R.U.C. A large following for a man who peaked half a century ago. Who are these tens of thousands who comprise this uncommon ‘cult‘? A better question would be, ‘Who aren’t they?’
“Alain is like a drug in my life.”
“I saw his picture first on a Pakistani magazine,” writes Falak, handle @knightriderjan70 , a nineteen-year-old citizen of Lahore City, Pakistan. “That was the moment I fell in love with him.” Every one of Falak’s sixty-two Instagram posts are pictures or videos of Alain Delon, including her profile picture. A glance at the cover of a magazine in Pakistan led to an obsession with a French legend, since which Falak has seen twenty-one Alain Delon films and saved more the four thousand pictures of him in her collection. “Alain is like a drug in my life,” Falak says. “I start my day watching his photos and do the same thing before going to sleep.” Love and addiction. These two words are synonymous with the name Alain Delon, as over and over again they appear in conversation with his millennial fanbase. “I just saw one photo of him,” says a seventeen-year-old from the Netherlands, Instagram handle @rockstarsncocktails, “and I just kind of got addicted.”
While his interweb fans were born scarcely before, even after, the 21st century began, Delon’s proclaimed hey-day began in 1960 with his depiction of Tom Ripley, a suave sociopath impersonating a playboy, in René Clément’s Plein Soleil or Purple Noon (1960). Walking against the crowd on a market road in Naples, Delon emanates unnerving masculinity and raw elegance in a pristine white button-up and fitted gray slacks, a murderer so innately beautiful he must be cheered on.
Delon’s looks and performance in Purple Noon defined stylish crime films of the era, and Delon continued to surpass his own standards seven years later in Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï (1967). Quite literally the polar opposite of Purple Noon‘s Tom Ripley, Delon plays stone cold killer Jef Costello, an assassin whose work prohibits emotion and cages him from the outside world. While equally eye-catching in a trench coat and fedora, stealing cars off the Paris streets, Ripley and Costello are their own men, strikingly portrayed with their own unique pathos. These are, undoubtedly, Delon’s hallmark performances; one or two such cases of audience enthrallment can be expected of a man so aesthetically pleasing. For Monsieur Delon, innate talent comes into play, and when it comes to masterpieces there are many, many more.
As an actor Delon has over a hundred credits, and while several of his performances fall within the crime genre, his filmography is vast and varied. Who can forget the young Italian boxer, the sadistic soldier, the morose high school teacher with a kink (among others)? Certainly not Instagrammers. Even Delon’s personal life is immortalized on smart phone screens, as photos of Delon and his past love interests are naturally amorous. Delon’s infamous relationship with German actress Romy Schneider. has a popular following of its own, as several Instagram accounts are dedicated solely to sharing photos of the beautiful ex-couple.
“Compared to his time, he always stood out in the crowd, but it’s even easier to notice now.”
What is it about Alain Delon that has men and women, critics and fans, past and present, acclaiming him again and again? Have social media users been transfixed by Delon’s hypnotic blue eyes? Or is it pure sex appeal that has captured the hearts of hungry millennials? “Compared to his time, he always stood out in the crowd, but it’s even easier to notice now,” says Soniya, handle @dailygarbo, a resident of Vancouver, Canada and a surefire competitor for youngest Delon fan. “He isn’t like most other actors who are aggressive and controlling,” the fourteen-year-old continues. “Today’s actors don’t have the ‘charm’… They lack the je ne sais quoi.” Soniya continues to credit Delon with broadening her cultural horizons and increasing her happiness. “He has made a great contribution to my life,” she says, the anticipation of his effect on her adult future evident in every word.
In a recent interview with GQ Magazine, Alain Delon, now eighty-two years old, acknowledged the impact of female adoration on his career. “Women,” he said, “became my motivation. I owe them everything. They were the ones who inspired me to look better than anyone else, to stand stronger and taller than anyone else, and to see it in their eyes.” It was indeed in women’s eyes upon seeing Delon, and it still is. To women of the past sixty years, Alain Delon and his fans owe their gratitude for inspiring a stellar career. To the phone-tapping youth of the Instagram era, for their media onslaught and virtual praise, we must award our highest respect.
“Women became my motivation. I owe them everything.”
Though Delon’s professional career has come to a close, his cinematic legacy can never die. Under the thumbs of budding millennials he remains, vital and intoxicating as ever, as he is reincarnated image by image, clip by clip. Though his past has been repeated by ‘sickeningly’ modern means, Alain Delon can still say that to women, modern women, he owes everything.