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Jean-Louis Trintignant passed away: in memoriam programme

On Wednesday 17 June, Jean-Louis Trintignant passed away at the age of 91. He had been ill for some time. With three films, Eye Classics commemorates one of the greatest actors of post-war European cinema: Un homme et une femme, Z and Amour.

By Eye Editors21 June 2022

Claude Lelouch, Eric Rohmer, Bernardo Bertolucci, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Michael Haneke – name a great (European) director and Jean-Louis Trintignant (1931 – 2022) has worked with them.

Trintignant is therefore regarded, with actors such as Michel Piccoli, Marcello Mastroianni, Philippe Noiret and Alain Delon, as one of the defining male actors of European author cinema of the second half of the 20th century.

Jean-Louis Trintignant
Jean-Louis Trintignant

He was loved by directors for his nondescript, impassive appearance; beneath the inscrutability of his appearance, there seemed to be dangerous feelings that were always kept in check. Trintignant (“The best actors are those who feel the most and show the least”) was often cast as a judge, magistrate or cold-blooded criminal.

Fast cars

Born to a wealthy family in the Vaucluse, Trintignant initially seemed more interested in fast cars than in acting; he wanted to be a racing driver, like his uncles Louis and Maurice. After half-heartedly studying law, the introverted young man decided to take a drama course to gain more self-confidence.

Trintignant first became famous with a role opposite Brigitte Bardot in Roger Vadim's Et Dieu…créa la femme (1956), which was a worldwide hit. In 1966 he made an impression in Claude Lelouch's Un homme et une femme, as a race car driver who has a passionate affair with a script girl (Anouk Aimée).

With films such as political thriller Z (Costa-Gavras, 1969), Il conformista (1970), Bernardo Bertolucci's hypothermic analysis of Italian fascism, and Ma nuit chez Maude (1969), Eric Rohmer's portrait of an insecure man who, as a Catholic, doesn't want to lose his virginity before marriage, Trintignant secured his place among top European actors. In total, he would appear in nearly 150 films, including quite a few crime films (during the 1970s).

still from Amour (Michael Haneke, FR/AT/DE 2012)
still from Amour (Michael Haneke, FR/AT/DE 2012)

Three classics

In the Eye Classics series, the film museum shows three films in which the versatility of Trintignant's career is highlighted: Un homme et une femme, Z (about the period before the establishment of the Greek colonel regime) and Amour (2012) by Michael Haneke, in which Trintignant as an elderly man takes care of his declining wife.

Eye Classics