French cinema legend Jean-Louis Trintignant dies at 91

Published 18 Jun, 2022 01:17pm

His career spanned six decades and around 130 films.

Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Jean-Louis Trintignant, one of France’s greatest actors, died on Friday aged 91 and was hailed by President Emmanuel Macron as “a wonderful artistic talent and voice”.

He died surrounded by his family in the Gard region of southern France, his wife said in a statement.

Trintignant’s career spanned six decades and some 130 films, including classics such as Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours: Red, Costa-Gavras’ Z and Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist.

But his life was hit by tragedy when his daughter Marie was beaten to death by rock star Bertrand Cantat in 2003.

“He accompanied our lives through French cinema. It’s a page that turns on a wonderful artistic talent and voice,” said Macron after being informed of the death during a visit to a tech conference in Paris.

No cause of death was immediately given, but Trintignant had been suffering from cancer in recent years.

He had announced his retirement from cinema in 2017 but returned in 2019 for a sequel to the film that made his name, the 1966 classic A Man and a Woman.

The New Wave love story starred Trintignant as a racing driver — a real-life passion for the actor — and turned him into an international star after it won Academy Awards for best screenplay and foreign-language film, as well as the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

He won the best actor award at the festival three years later for political thriller Z.

“Trintignant was one of my all-time favourite actors: sexy, pensive, mischievous, capable of deep and searching sadness,” tweeted Variety film critic Guy Lodge. “What a body of work. What a face.”

Despite his screen success, Trintignant was known to say that he preferred the theatre.

“I could have spent my whole life doing theatre,” he said in 2017, adding: “But cinema paid better!” Trintignant continued to race cars after getting his breakthrough role alongside Brigitte Bardot in the then-notorious And God Created Woman in 1956.

He went on to be seen as one of the most gifted actors of the postwar generation, playing an array of traitors, thugs and crooks or ambiguous and perverted types.

Trintignant refused to give in to bitterness over his daughter’s death and even forgave Cantat, the lead singer of the French band Noir Desir, when many others could not bring themselves to do so.

Originally published in Dawn,June 18th, 2022