With the mooshed-in face of a bad soccer goalie, Gérard Depardieu, 45, is hardly the typical idea of a French actor worth importing. Yet this evocative, authorized biography makes the actor seem more interesting and serious than the image he has polished in his films.
Chutkow shows that Depardieu is a committed, generous man and sketches in enough background to make the book rewarding as a social history. Especially intriguing is Depardieu's hometown, Châteauroux, which was occupied by the Nazis during World War IT, then became the site of a U.S. air base. The village was a superstitious old hamlet, and Chutkow credulously describes Depardieu's belief in magic. None of the actor's brushes with fame are detailed as vividly as his relationship with Châteauroux. But better that than reading about Gérard's trying to "sate his creative demons." (Knopf, $24)