Today the French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant (b. 1930) celebrates his 84th birthday. I recently wrote a little about his performance in the film Z (1969) and with that in mind, I’d like to take a brief look back at six other memorable roles from M. Trintignant’s career.
…And God Created Woman (1956, dir. Roger Vadim) – JLT’s first notable film appearance was in this scandalous classic, best known for turning Brigitte Bardot into a superstar. The pair play a young married couple whose union is threatened by Trintignant’s brother-in-law (played by Christian Marquand) and a wealthy older man (Curd Jürgens). The film also features Isabelle Corey (who was in Melville’s Bob le Flambeur the same year), George Poujouly (his other films included Clair’s Forbidden Games in 1952, Clouzot’s Diabolique in 1955 and Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows in 1958) and Marie Glory (a character actress who lived to age 103  and who starred in Marcel L’Herbier’s silent L’Argent in 1928).
Il Sorpasso (1962, dir. Dino Risi) – A highly regarded Italian road movie, Trintignant plays a shy young man working his way through law school. His life is completely changed one day when he crosses paths with a loud, brash but friendly man (Vittorio Gassman) and the two embark on a cross-country journey filled with laughter and tears. The polar-opposite personalities of Trintignant’s and Gassman’s characters complement each other perfectly.
A Man and a Woman (1966, dir. Claude Lelouch) – One of the biggest hits of international cinema in the 1960s, Lelouch’s romantic drama stars Trintignant and Anouk Aimée as lovers who are not sure if their relationship can overcome a large number of obstacles. At the 1967 Academy Awards, the film won two awards for Best Foreign Language Film (France) and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen (won by Lelouch and Pierre Uytterhoeven) as well as receiving nominations for Best Actress and Best Director. It also won the illustrious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1966.
Confidentially Yours (1983, dir. François Truffaut) – Truffaut’s swan song is a lovely tribute to the storytelling and aesthetic styles of Alfred Hitchcock. Trintignant and Fanny Ardant (Truffaut’s partner at the time, from the early 1980s until his death in 1984) make a wonderful sleuthing team as they try to solve the murder mystery in which Trintignant’s character is ensnared, the typically Hitchcockian innocent man on the run.
Three Colors: Red (1994, dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski) – Another swan song, this time of a Polish auteur who created masterpieces of French cinema in the early-to-mid-1990s. Trintignant and Irène Jacob play neighbors whose lives intersect as they try to find happiness within themselves and others in Geneva. Drenched in stunning red-hued cinematography by Piotr Sobocinski (who, like Kieslowski, also passed away too soon), Red is a beautiful meditation on love and an unforgettable end to Kieslowski’s trilogy.
Amour (2012, dir. Michael Haneke) – JLT made his first film appearance in nine years in this somber drama, starring opposite another bright light of French cinema from the 50s and 60s, Emmanuelle Riva. It is not a film for the fainthearted, but it is worth seeing for a performance by Jean-Louis Trintignant that you will never forget. Amour was my first experience seeing a Trintignant performance and the quality of his work, even as a man in his eighties without the sparkle of youth, was so terrific that I immediately became a fan.