Serge Toubiana pays tribute to Jean-Louis Trintignant

By Jean-Louis Trintignant, prolific actor (almost 150 films per hour), theater actor, great reader of poetry, car racer, winemaker, among others, without forgetting that he made two films – A busy day (1972) and Le Maîtrenageur (1978) – we remember the voice first, such a special voice, warm and deep, round and soothing. interviewee. An undeniably unique voice that you could listen to on a loop for hours without getting tired. One almost wants to line up a pure chimera in single file, lining up his speech in all his films like a tape in the form of an endless monologue. Jean-Louis Trintignant as in himself, author of an oral work

But it would be a shame to amputate this one with the replicas of its many sublime partners: Brigitte Bardot, Anouk Aimée, Romy Schneider, Dominique Sanda, Françoise Fabian, Catherine Deneuve, Stéphane Audran, Simone Signoret, Isabelle Huppert, Léa Massari, Emmanuelle Riva, Irène Jacob, Juliette Binoche, Fanny Ardant and so many others. Because in the cinema, charm works in pairs. Trintignant was an actor of seduction, an actor of charm, an ex-young-first. Eternal “Young First” even, a term he didn’t like, even hated. It harks back to And God Created Woman, the 1956 film directed by Roger Vadim that made him world famous as the partner of Brigitte Bardot. And also to be her lover in life. The Bardot myth exploded back then to proportions that we can hardly imagine today. A film freed from the moral and sexual corset of the post-war years by its boldness and especially that of its actress, repeatedly jostling, laughing and dancing, as if in a sexual trance, the old codes of French cinema. And only movies. Immediately afterwards, Trintignant completed his military service, which at the time lasted a long time. He returned to the cinema and started all over again. Luckily there was Italy where it was requested: Valerio Zurlini (Violent Summer, 1959), Dino Risi (The boaster, 1962), later Sergio Corbucci (Le Grand Silence, a western in the snow) and above all Bernardo Bertolucci with Le Conformiste (1970), a disturbing, menacing role, another facet of this tall, shy man. Meanwhile in France there was the New Wave that passed Trintignant. And vice versa. The encounter was only occasional: Jacques Doniol-Valcroze (The Beating Heart, with Françoise Brion, 1960), Claude Chabrol (Les Biches, 1967), Éric Rohmer (the unforgettable My Night at Maud’s, 1969). But there was Alain Cavalier (Le Combat dans l’île, 1962), Costa Gavras (Compartiment tueurs, 1965) and above all Z 1969, the famous and unforgettable role of the “little judge”, shy and reserved but proving tough and unrelenting to be in the service of the dictatorship against thugs). And of course Claude Lelouch, with A man and a woman, Palme d’or 1966 and worldwide success. Then Le Voyou and other films.
The meeting with François Truffaut came too late. Twice late, you could say, because Strongly Sunday! was the filmmaker’s last film, filmed in 1983, a year before his death. In 1979, Trintignant wrote to Truffaut: “I would have liked to have been in your films, you would have been happy and I would have been fine… I consider myself a man who has time to do what he loves.” No doubt he was referring to the roles Truffaut interpreted in his own films: The Wild Child, The American Night and The Green Room. Roles that would have suited Trintignant, who was not dissimilar to the filmmaker: same height, same anxious gaze, same seduction by shyness.

A few years later, he and Truffaut finally found the opportunity to work with Vivement dimanche! In a letter sent out before filming, Truffaut wrote to the actor, “If you take this role, we’re going to be flexible, like moccasins.” I really like this formula of a flexible film with a simple, “moccasin-style” approach because it’s corresponds perfectly to the actor Jean-Louis Trintignant throughout his career. He said he had been shy in his youth, no doubt also because he had had a southern accent since he was born in Vaucluse on December 11, 1932, and he had to both correct and erase his accent when he decided to “after Paris” in the 1950s to try his luck at the theater and to overcome his shyness. I’m convinced he used that shyness to make it a strong point in his acting: hence a certain reluctance, a penchant for mystery, a unique way of acting while masking his desire while now on edge . Be present while it passes. The great actors show themselves and at the same time hide according to an art or a secret that only they know.

Basically, Jean-Louis Trintignant did not like his status as a film actor, it seemed to weigh on his shoulders, he probably found it humiliating, preferred theater and great texts. Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which he performed twice. Later poetry, Apollinaire, Prévert, Vian, Aragon. He loved touring with his daughter Marie to read Guillaume Apollinaire’s Poèmes de Lou. It wasn’t possible overnight because the girl disappeared in horrible (and scandalous) circumstances and life would never be the same again. The pain never left him. He took refuge in solitude and contemplation of nature.
The cinema in which he excelled, in Italy as well as in France, he saw with an amused, mocking look. In the past. He distanced himself and often said goodbye and sometimes returned to it, persuaded by Krzysztof Kieslowski (Three colors: Red, 1994), Jacques Audiard (Watch men fall, 1994) or Patrice Chéreau (Those who love me will take the train, 1998). ). Three wonderful roles. And of course by Claude Lelouch, to whom he will remain faithful to the end, because “The most beautiful years of a life” is the actor’s last film, which was released in 2019.
There was also and above all the meeting with Michael Haneke. I remember previewing the white ribbon, Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival 2009, from which Trintignant took over a dubbing voice for the French version. Haneke had come to present his film at the Cinémathèque and Trintignant was in the room. The Austrian filmmaker was keen to entrust him with a role in his next film, Amour. Margaret Menegoz, the producer of Les Films du Losange, twice had to convince him to accept the lead role alongside Emmanuelle Riva and Isabelle Huppert. Trintignant declined: “I want to kill myself more than make a movie.” “Do the film, then you kill yourself, I’ll help you if you want.” We know the rest. The film not only won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, but also won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film and Trintignant was awarded the César for Best Actor. The actor and filmmaker reunited five years later for Happy Ending alongside Isabelle Huppert and Mathieu Kassovitz.

Art house films, popular films, films seen and reviewed in theaters or on TV. Jean-Louis Trintignant belongs to our intimate and mental landscape with some very rare actors. It’s there for life.

Serge Toubiana

Author : Serge Toubiana

Last update : June 20, 2022 at 10:01 a.m. CEST

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