Bernard Cantat has had a lot to reflect on, having served three years of an eight-year prison sentence for the manslaughter of Marie Trintignant in a Vilnius hotel in July 2003
Bordeaux band Noir Désir were one of the landmark French rock groups of the last 25 years. Their 1989 album “Veuillez Rendre l’Ame” set them on a stratospheric rise to success that was to end in the violent death of actress (and daughter of “Amour” star Jean-Louis Trintignant) Marie Trintignant 14 years later.
Even though the band released additional material in their lead singer’s absence, no new recording or touring took place and the band effectively ended as an entity in 2003, although it took until 2010 before they officially disbanded.
Since Cantat’s conditional release from a Lithuanian prison in 2007, he has been re-acquainting himself with the world of music with some limited success. For many, he will still be remembered as the lead singer of Noir Désir, but for those closer to the tragedy itself, he will always be no more than an aggressive killer. “Les Intouchables” actor François Cluzet is a former partner of Marie Trintignant. They lived together for four years and had a child together. For him, Cantat will always be Cantat the killer and not the lyrical and vocal genius that many critics hailed him as:“The problem with Bertrand Cantat is that he this air of someone who wants to forget his responsibilities,” said Cluzet in a 2011 interview. “Even so, he has paid his debt to society. He went to prison and now he’s a free man. He can do whatever he wants for a living. But it’s really galling to see that that guy is going to be applauded once more. Whether you like it or not, he’s still a killer.”
The father of Marie Trintignant – veteran actor Jean-Louis Trintignant – could not attend the famous Festival of Avignon because the killer of his daughter was to appear in a play at the festival. “I don’t understand that man. I don’t understand how he can get up on stage… after killing a woman. And for that, he did four years of prison. Could he not make himself a little more discreet?… Today, he’s a man that I detest and I’m going to say something awful – he behaved like a shit and he’s the man that I detest most in the whole world.”
But Cantat has continued to appear on stages either singing or acting and his work with his latest group Détroit has been receiving plenty of critical acclaim.
While he has not spoken publicly about the terrible night in July in 2003 that ended with the death of his fiancée, he has finally spoken about the subsequent break-up of the famous band that he formed with secondary-school pals in Bordeaux in the eighties.“The elements just didn’t come together to make it possible,” he said in an interview with rock journalist Olivier Cachin in trying to explain why Noir Désir didn’t reform. “We tried; there were rehearsals, conditions were created with meetings and so on. There were some really great moments acoustically speaking, things were happening, but the chemistry just wasn’t there. The thing didn’t click.” It was, he says, an impossible task that pushed him towards other projects but ones which left him “stronger than with Noir Désir.”
Noir Désir did bring out two releases in 2008 – namely Gagnants/Perdants and Le Temps des Cérises. These were singles recorded in very special conditions, ones which were a spark to the powder keg: “That’s a whole other story. Two members of the group weren’t there at all. My buddies from Eiffel (another of the groups he worked with) Romain and Estelle (Humeau) weren’t far away so we went to do it at their place but that caused a massive row, that it wasn’t a 100% Noir Désir gig all of a sudden. I had done it in all innocence to put it on the Internet.”
It’s all worked out pretty well for Cantat, who will be playing with Détroit in a sell-out nationwide tour that includes the Printemps de Bourges Festival – currently running in the central town of Bourges until the 27th.
Below: Bertrand Cantat in his and Noir Désir’s heyday with “Aux Sombres Héros de l’Amer”