Jean-Louis Trintignant, a key figure in French cinema and theater best known for his role in A Man and a Woman, died on Friday at the age of 91. He died peacefully this morning of old age at his home in the Gard surrounded by loved ones.
A recognizable voice among all, a magnetic presence with a touch of melancholy, Trintignant led an immense career for half a century, punctuated by about 160 roles in theater and cinema, from “And God…created Woman” to “Love”. .
He went down in cinema history with “A Man and a Woman” by Claude Lelouch – Golden Palm in Cannes in 1966. In 1969 he won the Interpretation Prize in Cannes for “Z” by Costa Gravas and the César for Best Actor in “Amour” by Michael Haneke in 2013. Three highlights of his career.
The death of Mary
This perfectionist with elegant modesty was also a concerned and reserved man, who admitted to having had suicidal temptations: “I admit I’ve never been very happy”.
This pessimism accompanied him long before the death of his daughter Marie, with whom he was very close. She died in 2003 after being beaten by her companion, the singer Bertrand Cantat.
A few months earlier, the father and daughter had interpreted Apollinaire’s “Poèmes à Lou” on stage.
This tragic death would not stop haunting him: “I could have ended my life at that moment”. Urged on by his relatives, he returned to the stage and found “therapy” in poetry and theatre. The boards, his “real job,” he told the AFP news agency. “We make films a bit out of vanity”, “to stop being shy”.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday hailed the memory of an “impressive artistic talent” who “accompanied our lives a little through French cinema”. “It’s a page turning,” added the head of state, citing the actor’s “soft voice.”
“He was the first actor to say yes to me. Seven films, he offered me his talent seven times,” said Claude Lelouch, touched, on RTL radio and praised “the most beautiful voice we’ve heard in theater and cinema.” “He gave us his scars. He was a remarkable man (…) I owe him everything,” he continued.
‘He was someone rare, bewildering in a good way. A great actor. He worked with his tape recorder in his hand and said poetry all his life, and at the end of his life, so the last four years, he shocked everyone by saying wonderful poems in a wonderful way. And he’s made great films, Lelouch of course, but there’s also the conformist, red, eventually great films,” his ex-wife Nadine Trintignant, mother of his children, responded to BFMTV.
Connection to BB
Born on December 11, 1930 in Piolenc, southern France, to an industrialist and nephew of racing driver Maurice Trintignant, he grew up on a hard road, with a sense of honesty that never left him. A shy young man who seemed always somewhere else, he took comedy lessons from Charles Dullin in Paris.
He made his stage debut in 1951 in Schiller’s Marie Stuart and on screen in Christian-Jaque’s Wenn alle Kerle der Welt (1956). In the same year he toured with Brigitte Bardot (“And God…created Woman”, Roger Vadim). Her affair with BB creates a lot of conversation.
The actor, returning from traumatic military service in Algeria, leaves the country with Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Vadim). His nervous and sensitive game seduces.
A man and a woman
With his romantic love composition in A Man and a Woman, he becomes the most touring actor alongside Anouk Aimée, like Belmondo and Delon. Altogether he will act in around 120 films…
He has a penchant for ambiguous, impenetrable, disturbing characters. He feels just as comfortable in mainstream film (‘Paris brule-t-il?’, René Clément) as in the avant-garde (‘L’homme qui ment’ by Alain Robbe-Grillet, which earned him the Silver Bear for Best Actor in Berlin) or political, like ‘Z’.
He also toured Italy, notably in “Le Fanfaron” by Dino Risi and “Le Conformiste” by Bernardo Bertolucci.
Jean-Louis Trintignant himself directed two films, A busy day and Le Maître-nageur, without much success.
Big comeback in 2012
In the 1980s, the nonconformist turned his career back to the theater. That doesn’t stop him from filming some great roles in cinema, in Watch the men fall or Three colors: Red, where he plays a taciturn former judge.
After the death of his daughter, he retired from the film sets for nearly a decade before returning in 2012’s Love, in which he plays an octogenarian confronting his wife’s slow agony.
He then found Haneke for the role of a suicidal old citizen in “Happy End” in Cannes competition in 2017, the year he offered himself a final show reading poems by Prévert, Vian and Desnos at the Salle Pleyel in Paris , then on tour.
A man and a woman
To come full circle, he found director Claude Lelouch and his partner Anouk Aimée for The Finest Years of a Life in 2019, following A Man and a Woman 53 years later.
He had married the actress Stéphane Audran, then the director Nadine Marquand (Trintignant), with whom he had three children, Marie, Pauline (died in infancy) and Vincent. Since her divorce, the motorsport enthusiast has shared the life of racing driver Marianne Hoepfner.
Jean-Louis Trintignant lived near Uzès (Gard) for thirty years, not far from his beloved vines. “My midi is a bit like me: strict, not very warm. It’s calm and that suits me.
His funeral will be private.
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