Nationality: French. Born: Port-St. Esprit, 11 December 1930. Education: Studied law to age 20; studied acting with Charles Dullin and Tatania Balacgova. Family: Married 1) the actress Stéphane Audran, 1954 (divorced); 2) Nadine Marquand (i.e., the director Nadine Trintignant), 1960, one son and two daughters (one deceased), including the actress Marie Trintignant. Career: 1951—stage debut; 1955—film debut in Si tous les gars du monde; 1956–59—military service; 1966—"rediscovered" after role in Un Homme et une femme; 1972—directed the film Une Journée bien remplie. Awards: Best Actor, Berlin Festival, for L'Homme qui ment, 1968; Best Actor, Cannes Festival, for Z, 1969. Agent: c/o Artmédia, 10 av George V, 75008 Paris, France.
Films as Actor:
Si tous les gars du monde (If All the Guys in the World; Race for Life) (Christian-Jaque) (as Jean-Louis)
Et Dieu créa la femme (And God Created Woman) (Vadim) (as Michel); La Loi des rues (Habib); Club de femmes (Habib)
Estate violenta (Violent Summer) (Zurlini) (as Carlo); Les Liaisons dangereuses (Vadim) (as Danceny)
Austerlitz (Gance and Richebé); Le Coeur battant (The French Game) (Doniol-Valcroze) (as François); La Millième Fenêtre (Menegoz) (as Georges)
Pleins feux sur l'assassin (Franju) (as Jean-Marie); Le Combat dans l'île (Fire and Ice) (Cavalier) (as Clement); Le Jeu de la vérité (Hossein) (as Guy); L'Antinea (L'Atlantide; Journey beneath the Desert; The Lost Kingdom) (Ulmer and Masini) (as Pierre)
"La Luxure" ep. of Les Septs Péchés capitaux (The Seven Capital Sins) (Demy) (as Paul); Il sorpasso (The Easy Life) (Risi) (as Roberto Mariani); Horace '62 (Versini) (as Joseph)
Il successo (Morassi) (as Sergio); Château en Suède (Nutty Naughty Chateau) (Vadim) (as Eric)
Mata-Hari, Agent H21 (Richard) (as Capt. François Lassalle); Les Pas perdus (Robin) (as Georges); Merveilleuse Angélique (Borderie) (as the poet)
Compartiment tueurs (The Sleeping Car Murders) (Costa-Gavras) (as Eric); La Bonne Occase (Drach); Un Jour à Paris (short); Fragilité, ton nom est femme (short); "La donna che vive va sola" ep. of Io uccido, tu uccidi (Puccini)
Le Dix-septième Ciel (Korber) (as François); La Longue Marche (Astruc) (as Philippe); Paris brûle-t-il? (Is Paris Burning?) (Clément) (as Serge); Un Homme et une femme (A Man and a Woman) (Lelouch) (as Jean-Louis Duroc); Safari diamants (Drach) (as Raphael)
Col cuore in gola (With Baited Breath; Deadly Sweet) (Brass) (as Bernard); Trans-Europ Express (Robbe-Grillet) (as Elias/himself); Un Homme à abattre (A Man to Kill) (Condroyer) (as Raphael); La morte, la fatto, l'uovo (Plucked; A Curious Way to Love) (Questi) (as Marco); Mon amour, mon amour (Nadine Trintignant) (as Vincent)
Les Biches (The Does) (Chabrol) (as Paul Thomas); Z (Costa-Gavras) (as the magistrate)
Le Voleur de crimes (Nadine Trintignant) (as Jean); Metti, una sera a cena (The Love Circle; One Night at Dinner) (Griffi) (as Michele); Ma nuit chez Maud (My Night at Maud's) (Rohmer) (as Jean-Louis); La matriarca (The Libertine) (Campanile) (as Dr. De Marchi); L'Homme qui ment (Shock Troops; The Man Who Lies) (Robbe-Grillet) (as Boris Varissa); Il grande silenzio (Corbucci); L'Opium et le bâton (Rachedi); Cosi dolce cosi perversa (Lenzi)
L'Américain (Bozzuffi) (as Bruno); Le Voyou (The Crook) (Lelouch) (as Simon); Il conformista (The Conformist) (Bertolucci) (as Marcello)
L'Homme au cerveau greffé (Doniol-Valcroze); La Course du lièvre à travers les champs (And Hope to Die) (Clément) (as Froggy); Sans mobile apparent (Without Apparent Motive) (Labro) (as Detective Carella)
L'Attentat (Plot; The French Conspiracy) (Boisset) (as Darien)
Un Homme est mort (The Outside Man) (Deray) (as Lucien); Defense de savoir (Forbidden to Know) (Nadine Trintignant) (as Laubre); Le Train (Granier-Deferre) (as Meyereu)
Les Violons du bal (Drach) (as Michel); Le Secret (The Secret) (Enrico) (as David); Le Mouton enragé (Love at the Top) (Deville) (as Nicholas); L'Escapade (Soutter) (as Ferdinand); Le Jeu avec le feu (Playing with Fire) (Robbe-Grillet) (as Frantz)
Le Voyage de noces (Nadine Trintignant) (as Paul); L'Agression (Act of Aggression) (Pirès) (as Paul Varlin); Flic Story (Deray) (as Buisson); Il pleut sur Santiago (Soto) (as the Senator); La donna della domenica (The Sunday Woman) (Comencini) (as Massimo)
Les Passagers (Leroy) (as Alex)
Il deserto dei Tartari (The Desert of the Tartars) (Zurlini) (as the doctor)
L'Argent des autres (Other People's Money) (du Chalonge) (as Rainier); Repérages (Faces of Love) (Soutter) (as Victor)
La Banquière (Girod) (as Horance Vannister); Je vous aime (I Love All of You) (Berri)
Malevil (du Chalonge) (as Rulbert); Passion d'amore (Passion of Love) (Scola) (as the doctor); Eaux profondes (Deville) (as Victor)
Colpa al cuore (Blow to the Heart) (Amelio—for TV); Boulevard des assassins (Tioulang); Le Grand Pardon (Arcady)
Le Bon Plaisir (Girod) (as the president); Under Fire (Spottiswoode) (as Jazy); La Nuit de Varennes (Scola) (as Monsieur Sauce); Vivement dimanche! (Confidentially Yours; Finally, Sunday) (Truffaut) (as Julien Vercel); La Crime (Cover-Up) (Labro) (as Christian Lacassagne)
Viva la vie! (Lelouch) (as François Gaucher); Partir, revenir (Going and Coming Back) (Lelouch) (as Roland Rivière); Femmes de personne (Frank) (as Gilquin)
L'Été prochaine (Next Summer) (Nadine Trintignant) (as Paul); L'Homme aux yeux d'argent (Granier-Deferre) (as Inspector Mayene); Rendez-vous (Téchiné) (as Scrutzler); Sortuz egy fekete bivalyert (Laszlo Szabo) (as Fodo the Teacher)
La Femme de ma vie (Wargnier) (as Pierre); Un Homme et une femme: vingt ans déjà (A Man and a Woman: 20 Years Later) (Lelouch) (as Jean-Louis Duroc); Quinzième août (Garcia)
Le Moustachu (Chaussois) (as the general); La Vallée fantôme (Tanner) (as Paul)
Bunker Palace Hotel (Bilal) (as Holm); Pour un oui ou pour un non (Doillon)
Merci la vie (Thanks for Life) (Blier) (as S.S. officer)
L'Instinct de l'Ange (as the colonel)
Regarde les hommes tomber (See How They Fall) (Audiard) (as Marx); Trzy Kolory: Czerwony (Red; Rouge) (Kieślowski) (as Judge Joseph Kern); Ernesto Che Chuevara: Das bolivianische Tagebuch (Dindo—doc) (as narrator of French version)
Fiesta (Pierre Boutron) (as Masagual); La Cite des Enfants Perdus (The City of Lost Children) (Jeunet and Caro) (as voice of Irvin)
Les Bidochons (Serge Korber); C'est jamais loin (Centonze); Un héros très discret (Audiard) (as old Albert Dehousse); Tykho Moon (Bilal)
Ceux qui m'aiment prendront le train (Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train) (Chéreau) (as Lucien/Jean-Baptiste)
Films as Director:
Une Journée bien remplie (A Well-Filled Day)
Le Maître nageur
By TRINTIGNANT: book—
Un homme a sa fenêtre/Jean-Louis Trintignant, with Michel Boujut, Paris 1977.
By TRINTIGNANT: articles—
"Two Actors," interview in Films and Filming (London), October 1960.
"Jean-Louis Trintignant," interview with Molly Haskell, in Show (Hollywood), 20 August 1970.
"L'Acteur témoin de son temps," in Cinéma (Paris), February 1972.
Interview with D. Maillet, in Image et Son (Paris), March 1973.
Interview with C. Barthelemy, in Cinématographe (Paris), July 1985.
Interview with Jacques Zimmer, in Mensuel du Cinéma (Amsterdam), May 1993.
Interview with Agnés Peck and Michel Ciment, in Positif (Paris), September 1994.
Interview with Claude-Marie Trémois and Pierre Murat, in Télérama (Paris), 14 September 1994.
On TRINTIGNANT: articles—
Current Biography 1988, New York, 1988.
Veenstra, T., "L'homme qui ment," in Skrien (Amsterdam), April/May 1993.
Stars (Mariembourg), Autumn 1994.
Naddaf, Roswitha, "Der anständige Verführer," in Film-dienst (Cologne), 6 December 1994.
* * *
After training in Paris under Charles Dullin, Jean-Louis Trintignant appeared in theatrical repertory before making his film debut in a maritime drama, Si tous les gars du monde. In a career closely associated with the French New Wave and with Italian productions, he has achieved distinction in romantic, comic, and dramatic parts but especially in his portrayal of psychologically disturbed characters.
Slight in build with limpid eyes and pale complexion, he projected a romantic image defined by gentleness, diffidence, and vulnerability. In Et Dieu créa la femme, he established himself as the kind, unassertive deceived husband, and roles as the vulnerable, inexperienced male followed. In Estate violenta, he played the innocent youth seduced by a knowing female, in Les Liaisons dangereuses a tootrusting Danceny, in La Matriarca a shy doctor initiated into eroticism by a widowed patient, and in Les Biches a compliant male for two lesbians. His wittiest exploration of the insecure, morally confused male character came in Ma nuit chez Maud as an upright Catholic offered, but not recognizing, sexual opportunity.
Romantic comedy roles came in Le Coeur battant and Le Dix-Septième Ciel, and in two Italian productions: Metti, una sera a cena, as the seductive playwright, and Passion d'amore, as the doctor counseling lovesick patients. For Franju he was the romantic lead in Pleins Feux sur l'assassin, for Vadim he appeared in Château en Suède, and for Lelouch in Le Voyou and Viva la vie. More serious studies of romantic involvement are found in Le Train, where against the setting of the Nazi occupation he falls in love with a fleeing Jewess, played by Romy Schneider, and in Nadine Trintignant's study of an affair in Mon amour, mon amour. His most memorable romantic part, however, came in Un Homme et une femme, where, partnered with Anouk Aimée, he gave a sensitive but unsentimental performance as the widowed racing driver learning to love again. The two actors were reunited by Lelouch for an unusually late and unmemorable sequel, Un Homme et une Femme: vingt ans déjà.
Trintignant's taut and impassively cryptic acting style has suited films dealing with crime, political intrigue, war, or espionage. After an engaging performance as a juvenile criminal in La Loi des rues, he was the fascist thug of Le Combat dans l'île, the murderer's accomplice in Compartiment tueurs, the Frenchman Froggy in Clément's thriller La Course du lièvre à travers les champs, and the bored parachutist choosing crime in Safari-Diamants. Variations within the detective genre brought roles as Inspector Carella in Sans mobile apparent, the disquieting investigator in Glissements progressifs du plaisir, and a detective remorselessly pursuing his colleague's killers in L'Homme aux yeux d'argent, while as Paul Varlin in Agression and Julien Vercel in Vivement Dimanche! he turns investigator to establish his innocence.
Roles in war films have included that of Captain François Lassalle in the spy drama Mata-Hari, Serge in the liberation spectacle Paris brûle-t-il?, the resolute but fallible Resistance leader Philippe in La Longue Marche, and, in his first American film, the French spy Jazy working for the CIA in Under Fire. In political thrillers he has been a venal left-wing journalist duped by the authorities in L'Attentat, the infamous dictator Rulbert in Malevil, and the left-wing intellectual implicated in terrorism in Colpe al cuore. It was in Z, however, that he had his most commanding role as the principled examining magistrate who refuses to bow to political pressures.
In roles as persecuted individuals he was impressive in Les Violons du bal as the Jew recalling his boyhood in Nazi France and Les Passagers as the increasingly distraught man pursued by a murderous rival, and, in another psychological thriller, Un Homme est mort, as a frightened amateur killer tangling with ruthless professionals.
Trintignant's particular strength, however, is depicting the inadequate, sexually depraved, actively or passively aggressive male. In Trans-Europ Express, he exteriorized sadistic fantasies with a prostitute; in La morte, la fatto, l'uovo, he acted out Jack the Ripper obsessions at a brothel; in L'Homme qui ment, he was a pathological liar; and in Le Voleur de crimes, directed by his wife Nadine, he was a fantasist claiming homicidal responsibility for a suicide. More actively vicious roles came in Le Mouton enragé, as the timid bank clerk turned cynical womanizer. In Le Secret, he was a murderous paranoiac; in Flic Story, a psychopathic killer; in La Banquière, he displayed a chilling Machiavellianism; in Eaux profondes, he was the viciously perverse husband; while in Rendez-vous and L'Eté prochaine he was unscrupulously manipulative. His finest portrayal of an essentially immature and inadequate individual came in Il conformista as Marcello Clerici, the guilt-ridden sycophantic homosexual fascist, masterfully depicted with his self-consciously studied movements and his thin, self-absorbed smile.
Recent films have confirmed a growing diversity in Trintignant's roles. In La Vallée fantôme, he is seen as a filmmaker seeking inspiration and reflecting on his art; in the black comedy Le Moustachu, he appears as a grotesque secret service chief investigating infiltration; in the cartoon-styled science-fiction Bunker Palace Hotel, he appeared as the disconcerting, shaven-headed Holm; while in La Femme de ma vie, he gave a critically acclaimed performance as a reformed alcoholic helping a fellow victim.
Trintignant's most widely seen later-career performance came in Red, the final installment in Krzysztof Kieslowski's Trois Couleurs trilogy, playing an embittered, reclusive retired judge, a man on the edge of old age. On occasion, the judge peeps in on his neighbors through the window. More often, via the wonders of modern technology, he listens in on their telephone conversations. The judge, ultimately, is grappling with the moral implications that have deeply rattled his soul. How have his many guilty-or-innocent verdicts affected the lives of those he was empowered to judge? How have his own prejudices and moods affected his ability to judge impartially? Trintignant convincingly peels away the layers of this character, as he reveals himself to the young woman with whom he has come in contact.
Trintignant's spare, undemonstrative acting style has lent itself well to comic understatement, to seeming diffidence or innocence in romantic roles, but most powerfully to the depiction of repressed or dangerously unbalanced individuals given to private fantasies. The interiority of these characters is conveyed through noted idiosyncrasy and telling mannerisms so that they are gradually established as powerful screen presences.
—R. F. Cousins, updated by Rob Edelman