Jean-Louis Trintignant. This is the name written by Jacques Audiard at the top of his notebook as he tackles his first film, Watch the men fall (1994). The son of Michel Audiard made a name for himself by signing, alone or with his father, fifteen film scripts. But, at 41, it’s time to make a name for yourself. He wants to spin. Adapt polar A Hopeless Trio, of the American novelist Teri White, where a sales representative goes in search of the two murderers of his friend. Jean Yanne will play the commercial. And it is obvious for those who are about to go behind the camera that the role of the middle-aged mobster watching over his sidekick, naive and inexperienced, played by Mathieu Kassovitz, must fall to Trintignant.
When we ask Jacques Audiard what image he has in mind of Trintignant, he answers: a voice. That of My night at Maud’s (1969), by Eric Rohmer, where the actor administers a lesson in posture and seduction. When the question arises “What’s it like to talk to a woman?” »Audiard has a ready-made answer: “Well, you press the ‘Jean-Louis’ button, and it’s wonderful. » To define this voice, it has this expression: “It’s freaking out at attention. »
The filmmaker wants to dress this voice differently. Trintignant is used to playing psychopaths. The bastards. But since compartment killers and The Conformist, he has always enveloped them in a metallic elegance, in a glazed distinction of education. Villains dressed to the nines. Jacques Audiard, on the contrary, offers him a new contract: he will have to appear dirty, vulgar, homeless, hair dishevelled, never shaved. He will be evil oozing sweat, inspiring disgust.
Audiard wants to put the model of seduction embodied by Trintignant to the test of the 1990s, a decade when the codes of crime film were deconstructed. The elegance of Trintignant must turn into decay. And her natural seduction must also be exercised on men, in a sexually ambiguous relationship. Is the French actor ready to negotiate this turn? Is he ready for anything?
An injured director
In 1993, Jean-Louis Trintignant stopped answering the phone. Or so little. The star of Conformist has turned into a mirage, a wall against which filmmakers, young and old, come crashing down. He is 63 years old. Since he turned 45, he’s been getting a little bored at the movies. “From there, we only play old people”, he laments. There is something more trivial, noted since the mid-1980s by producer Marin Karmitz, whose career almost coincides with that of the actor: “Jean-Louis had tax problems all the time. One has the impression that he made certain films out of tax obligation. On the set, he was incredibly professional, but we understood that his property in the South was more important than a film, at least more important before he made the film. »
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