Jean-Louis Trintignant: Film legend dies at 91


I think about death abstractly, not sadly. We can live better by thinking about her not painfully, but happily.” With that thought, she ceased to exist. Jean-Louis Trintignantone of the great French actors who is remembered, among other things, for his title role in Man and woman. He was ninety-one years old, suffering from an illness, prostate cancer, which kept him bedridden at home, cared for by his third wife. She did not want to receive chemotherapy when it was discovered. He returned long ago from everything that reminded him of fame, from the very cinema where he triumphed. Already skeptical, almost without illusions and desire, probably every morning to open your eyes. Fed up with the many things he kept to himself.

Basically, young Jean-Louis, born December 11, 1930 in Piolenza, in the southern part of Provence, the Alps and the Côte d’Azur, he did not even think of devoting himself to cinema. He came from a wealthy family, an industrial father, and was determined to study law. But soon after entering university, at the age of twenty, he felt the desire to study drama and enter film school with the desire to one day become an actor, screenwriter and who knows, maybe also a director. He did two of those three things.

His entry into cinema came in 1955, the year he came to Barcelona to shoot one of his first films, out of three he made in Spain. Since 1956, this is the one that has served as a springboard for “And God Created Women.” Director Roger Vadim, who marries lead actress Brigitte Bardot, was a critical success and a box office success. Trintignant had been married for two years to Stéphane Audran, gorgeous red-haired actress. At first glance, a happy, balanced couple, much loved in the Gallic cinema world. But it turns out that Jean-Louis fell in love with his partner B.B., over the years a myth for the French, to whom Charles de Gaulle showed admiration, it was not for nothing that the treasury was replenished with millions in foreign currency with his films. And from friction against each other in between filming, Jean-Louis and Brigitte grew up, becoming lovers for a certain time. Needless to say, when Stephen found out about this “connection”, he considered his marriage to Trintignant broken.

If later he had other intimate female friendships, as we assume, they were short-lived. Before 1960 married for the second time to actress, screenwriter and director Nadine. Like two kindred spirits. Together they made five films. Sixteen years of intense passion. Parents of three children: Maria, Polina and Vincent. After parting in 1976, Nadine published her biography, from which we collect this phrase: “Jean-Louis divinely made love to me.” After all, they remained friends. But never, especially he, failed to overcome the tragedy that twice came into their lives unexpectedly. The first, in Rome, when little Pauline died as a result of regurgitation caused by a bottle: she was only two months old. It was a blow to the marriage. But the worst came many years later, in 2003. Her eldest daughter Marie, aged 41, was killed by her boyfriend, rocker Bertrand Kanté, who beat her severely, causing a brain edema from which she never recovered. . The killer will be released from prison after serving his sentence four years later. A terrible death from which Jean-Louis never recovered, always keeping in his memory and in his heart the memory of Marie, with whom he filmed the film “Terrace”. Their third son, Vincent, is forty-eight, an actor, and his parents were grandparents four times.

Jean-Louis Trintignant made hundreds of films that we remember, among others quite remarkable: My Night with Maud, The Conformist, one of his favorites, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, where he played the controversial Fascio, a militant Italian in the 1930s. investigating judge in the plot of “Z”, his only film of political content, on the orders of Costa-Gavras, again personifying the silent and lonely ex-judge, along with a beautiful young woman, as the protagonist of “Red”. Trintignant, who was very shy, found a role in The Getaway that suited him like a glove, alongside trickster and extrovert Vittorio Gassman.

In 1966, Claude Lelouch’s Man and Woman was released. A beautiful love story that critics scorned. None of these unfavorable comments, which ruled him out almost as much as a cake, prevented a blockbuster across Europe. A dedication to its protagonists, the attractive and sophisticated Anouk Aimé (whom the great commentator, stutterer Alfonso Sanchez, a confirmed bachelor, said she was the woman of his life) and the very convincing, already mature heartthrob Jean-Louis Trintignant. The story of two lonely creatures without a partner, parents of a boy and a girl, who see each other on Sundays, traveling from Paris to Deauville, when they both go to the boarding school where these offspring are. He is a race car driver. When I interviewed the great French actor in private a year after the film’s premiere in Madrid, he confessed to me something that I thought was unknown to the millions of viewers who saw Man and Woman. “I suggested to Lelouch why not change the profession of the main character, a scripted doctor, to a pilot. And Claude was fine with that.” It so happened that Jean-Louis drove sports cars, participated in the Monte Carlo Rally and admitted to me that he used to drive at high speed in his latest Mercedes model. Passion for cars came from his family: two of his uncles, Louis and Maurice, were professional racers.

His marriage to Nadine ended in 1976. Since then, he had not known the corresponding idylls. On the other hand, he has always been very careful about his personal life. And until 2000, he did not find another woman with whom he could connect his life: Marianne Höpfner. He is the one who was by his side until his last moments.

With the advent of the new century, Jean-Louis gradually became weary of filming. He didn’t feel motivated. And although he tried twice as a director, in two films with black humor behind the camera, he didn’t want to repeat this line either. In 2012, he agreed to be the protagonist of “Love”, the story of an elderly couple, along with Emmanuelle Riva, whose magnificent work won him the “Cesar”, which is the French version of the “Oscar”.

In The Paris Match, the actor reflected on this stage of his life. He was not interested in anything from the current cinema. He read only poetry and declared himself “rather uneducated”. The thought of going to the African continent, to Mali, far from European civilization, danced in his head, fed up with excesses and horrors, which, according to him, continued to spoil the world. He needed a place away from the noise, from politics, from the pleasant life, from the podiums and red carpets of his professional sphere … I don’t know if he even considered that trip, for which I did not find visual confirmation. . He, of course, retained the idea of ​​solidarity with the victims. Asked what he thought of the million-dollar donation attributed to Madonna for an NGO, Trintignant spat, “I wish I had done it without saying it. I myself, having earned a lot of money, gave a part to the third world.” organization without telling anyone. He never liked living in Paris, he preferred, as in the last period of his existence, to return home, where he was very happy with his olive plantations and vineyard. He was involved in a wine company.

The aforementioned disease at first physically undermined the actor. Which in 2018 announced that he was finally leaving the cinema. However, he heeded the call of Claude Lelocu to shoot, fifty years since the premiere of “Men and Women”, reunion with Anouk Aime. The two veteran protagonists agreed, and at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, The Best Years of Life, a documentary about this couple, about this film, which has already entered the history of French cinema, premiered. By this time, Jean-Louis had aged noticeably, sitting in a wheelchair, his vision blurred to the point that he was blind. Lelouch could only catch his voice, still magnificent. The screen great whose disappearance has touched his compatriots, starting with his President Macron, who dedicated an emotional memory to him. The same thing that we modestly do from here, not forgetting the hour that allowed me to meet him at Madrid’s Estación del Norte station, when he was filming “Secret Intentions” directed by Anton Ezeiza.


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