best film:  The Conformist is a visual high wire act from Bernardo Bertolucci. It is easily Bertolucci’s most formidable effort (and that is saying something because 1900 and Last Tango in Paris are excellent films). The Conformist does not work nearly as well without Jean-Louis Trintignant in full command in front of the camera. Behind The Conformist, Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours: Red is a towering achievement in 1990s cinema. Éric Rohmer’s My Night at Maud’s (1969) is a worthy bronze medal winner.


best performance:  The Conformist. Jean-Louis Trintignant’s career spanned over fifty years (fifty-five years between A Man and a Woman and Happy End) but The Conformist is Trintignant at the height of his powers. It is the performance Harrison Ford could not quite pull off in Blade Runner – a sort of variation on film noir set atop a transcendent set design where the protagonist needs both strength and ambiguity. Trintignant moves confidently through this 113-minute cinematic painting backdrop.


Jean-Louis Trintignant as Marcello Clerici in The Conformist – the pinnacle of the careers of both Bertolucci and Trintignant


stylistic innovations/traits:   Jean-Louis Trintignant could play a cerebral, internalized performance as well as anyone. He has done it in a pictorial masterpiece with Bertolucci, a very verbal film (it is verbal – but still rich subtext) with Rohmer, reflective moral film with Kieslowski, and now twice with Michael Haneke’s icy worldview. Trintignant’s style works as a sort of Clint Eastwood stoic model as well as evidenced in Sergio Corbucci’s The Great Silence (1968). Trintignant’s name is “Silence” like Charles Bronson’s “Harmonica” in Once Upon a Time in the West (and Corbucci is using Sergio Leone’s Ennio Morricone here, too). Trintignant never speaks – and he is sublime. The film is largely humorless, the least pastiche of Corbucci’s films – the Trintignant scene where he makes love to the widow would not work at all in his other films and it is quite poignant here. Roman Polanski missed an opportunity by not casting Jean-Louis Trintignant in The Tenant in 1976 – a role Trintignant would have knocked out of the park. Like Alain Delon (Trintignant is five years older), he was a French actor really at the height of his fame and talents in the 1960s who never make an archiveable film with Truffaut or Godard — at least he made one fantastic film with Rohmer.


from My Night at Maude’s – Jean-Louis Trintignant’s character is never called by name in the entire film. From Rohmer’s Moral Tales series of films. Maud (Françoise Fabian) appears 25 minutes into the film (a common trait in Rohmer’s work – on top of it being seasonal – this is a very winter/Christmas-y film) .  Trintignant excels at playing the intellectual – discussing Pascal and Mozart. This is one of those My Dinner with Andre films (more than a decade before of course) – a plotless, but endlessly fascinating one night conversation sort of (ok, it is more than one night, but still a short duration – minus the epilogue which is years later) film.


directors worked with: Michael Haneke (2), Sergio Corbucci (1), Éric Rohmer (1), Bernardo Bertolucci (1), Krzysztof Kieslowski (1). Haneke is Austrian (but born in Germany), Bertolucci is Italian of course, and Kieslowski is Polish – so three of the big four (Rohmer the exception) for Trintignant were with auteurs outside of France.


Michael Haneke’s Amour is his first film after 2009’s unbridled masterpiece The White Ribbon. Though the subject is severe – Georges, played by Jean-Louis Trintignant, cares for his long-time wife Anne, played by Emmanuelle Riva, as her health rapidly declines – it is, in many ways, Haneke’s most plainly told, warm, and accessible film to date. Duration is used as a tool by Haneke.  Trintignant has these brilliant, subtle changes over the course of the film.  They life together is all captured in this Parisian apartment – these are intellectuals (like Woody Allen, most of Haneke’s characters have walls of books in their apartments), but ordinary people – in the clean design of their place with its ivory walls.


top five performances:

  1. The Conformist
  2. My Night at Maude’s
  3. Three Colours: Red
  4. Amour
  5. The Great Silence


Three Colours: Red – Trintignant as the cynical, retired judge opposite of Irene Jacob as Valentine. This is a meditation on fate and interconnectedness – falling books opening to certain pages and passages.


archiveable films

1962- Il Sorpasso
1966- A Man and a Woman
1968- The Great Silence
1969- My Night at Maude’s
1969- Z
1970- The Conformist
1983- Under Fire
1994- Three Colours: Red
2012- Amour
2017- Happy End