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Jean-Louis Trintignant: an actor of charisma, depth and dark emotions | Movies

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Jean-Louis Trintignant had a long and distinguished career on stage and screen, but his cinematic presence was never stronger or fiercer than in old age. In later characterizations, he projected with renewed force a natural keen intelligence, an unflattering manner and air of being politely, or not so politely, disgusted with the moral vacuities and hypocrisy of everything around him. , as well as his own tragic and passionate sense of loss.

All of these themes were present in what was arguably his greatest role: Georges, Michael Hanekes Amour’s retired old music teacher, whose wife Anne (unforgettably played by Emmanuelle Riva) suffers a stroke, and having promised never to put her in a foster home, Georges takes care of her as best he can in their Paris apartment as her condition deteriorates. George’s anguish and desperately perceived new love for his wife in this terrible new twilight is most shockingly manifested in his astonishment and panic at the first grim symptom which perhaps owes more to the dark imagination of Hanekes only to strict clinical precision when Anne appears to mysteriously freeze in the kitchen one morning, then comes back to life after briefly and frantically running out of the room on a pointless mission to get a towel. She has no memory of this disturbing blackout, and Georges yells at poor Anne. Is this his idea of ​​a joke (a joke)? But of course Trintignant shows us that Georges is well aware from the outset that this is not the case.

Trintignant brilliantly expresses Georges’ overall fear and anger towards the world and towards himself: his anger that Anne is being put in a situation that he can do nothing about and that he will finally have to take terrible measures to put end. Trintignant’s final speech, when he begins to reflect on his own childhood, is an attempt to distract Anne, and himself, from the horrible thing he must now do. I can never remember this brilliant film without also recalling the great interview that Trintignant and Riva jointly gave to Guardians Xan Brooks when the film was released. Trintignant concluded it by sharply rejecting the idea that to love life is to love cinema: If you love life, you won’t sit in the dark in a cinema, will you? ? Why would you want to do that? Go live your life instead! A hilarious and studied sacrilege in the face of cinephilia.

Trintignants’ spiky, rough presence, observablely coexisting with his athletic good looks as a young man, first appeared in 1956’s Roger Vadims And God Created Woman, in which it was his fate, like the rest of the cast, to be eclipsed by emerging superstar Brigitte Bardot who was ruthlessly marketed as a sex kitten. Trintignant plays the grumpy, uncool young man who marries Bardot’s free-spirited young character, only for her to sleep with other people. But perhaps because Trintingant wasn’t trying to compete with Bardot in terms of sex appeal or coolness, he still managed to make an impression. He had a sexier role in Claude Lelouch’s huge 1966 hit A Man and a Woman, where he played a daredevil race car driver, two of his uncles were racers, and Trintignant was always passionate by sport whose wife committed suicide. He meets a beautiful widow (Anouk Aime) because their children are at the same boarding school, and the film occasionally shows us scenes from their new relationship. Trintignant revived this character in the films two sequels, gradually showing the characters in their later lives, showing great and to me slightly mystifying fidelity to a film that hasn’t aged particularly well.

Jean-Louis Trintignant with Marie Christine Barrault in Eric Rohmers My Night with Maud.
Jean-Louis Trintignant with Marie Christine Barrault in Eric Rohmers My Night with Maud. Photography: Photos 12/Alamy

More interesting, and closer to the difficult and intractable character that Trintignant was beginning to cultivate on screen, was his appearance in Eric Rohmers My Night With Maud (1969). In the film, his intense and sober character, who has fallen in love from afar with a beautiful young woman with whom he has not even exchanged a single word, finds himself forced to resist the sexual attentions of an extremely desirable divorcee called Maud ( Francoise Fabian). Seeing that he is determined not to sleep with her, she calls him an idiot with tolerance and it is a very Trintignant moment: he is difficult, upset, angry, principled, in the middle of a situation that he can’t really control.

In 1970, Trintignant found one of his greatest roles in which he was superbly cast, as Clerici in Bernardo Bertoluccis Le Conformiste, in which he played a rich young man whose homosexuality had been suppressed, as well as the memory childhood of an attempted sexual assault. Desperate to fit in, to conform, he joins Mussolini’s fascists and, to prove his loyalty to them, sets out to assassinate a prominent anti-fascist scholar who was his thesis supervisor at the university. Trintignant is very good at showing the dark, unhappy, unsexy side of sex: how sex can be demeaning and humiliating, especially when you have no way to rationalize and control its effect on you, and how that pressure has a dysfunctional consequence, which in this case is fascism.

Some of those ideas returned in Trintignant’s big end-of-life role: Judge Joseph Kern in Kieslowski’s Three Red Colors in 1994, a character with a radiant, alienated charisma that foreshadowed his Georges for Haneke. He is a character who smolders almost like a hallucination in the life of his heroine, played by Juliette Binoche, and who has a secret: the compulsive listening to the sex life of her neighbors, while wondering if our actions can really make a difference for others. real natures of peoples. It’s an intriguing role for Trintignant, and he brings a sort of old-time sailor quality to it, coupled with something more unsettling. Still, he’s probably not as strong as his George, because of his weird side.

Trintignant brought intellectual strength and nerve to French cinema, and a dark surge of passion.

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