If you’re born bad, or a rebel, or just a jerk, you have a strike or several against you. If you’re born bad and are an artist, if an indifferent one, people won’t pay you much mind, which will turn you into a frustrated rebel jerk; if a good one, they’ll chalk your attitude up to your genius. If you’re all of the above, including the good artist part, and are French on top of that, and die young, you’re way ahead, you are Rimbaud.
Thus Guillaume Depardieu who died of pneumonia a few days ago at age 37 after a hectic, hectic life of drugs, alcoholism, hooliganism, prostitution, a motorcycle accident following which his leg had to be amputated, a bad falling-out with his father—the more famous Gérard—you name it, he did it. He was also a gifted film actor who managed to get almost forty films under his belt in a short time, the latest showing in Paris right now, the gloomy Versailles.
The Rimbaud Principle was probably evoked or was on people’s minds yesterday at his funeral attended by everyone, including first lady Carla Bruni. The Principle goes like this, you can run amok as much as you want—if you’re talented and die young, that’s it, you’re absolved. No one can really compare with Rimbaud, the child genius who was done with poetry at age nineteen but not before he had delivered some of the most stunning poetry in the French language, including A Season in Hell and the Drunken Boat.
After that sparkling start, he just rotted away, living a miserable life trading goods in Africa until he was shipped back to France, delirious with gangrene, had a leg amputated (he too) and died at age 37 (he too). Ever since, the French have shown particular indulgence to anyone who seemed to follow that path, and young Depardieu certainly did, to a T. Let’s hope he and Arthur are sitting on a cloud somewhere, sharing a joint, and chuckling at the rest of us who can only wish we had their talent and will not know their fate.