text © 2011 Aline Giordano
Bertrand Cantat was the lead singer of Noir Désir, one of the most successful French rock bands since the end of the 1980s, with a career that would be spanning nearly two decades. I interviewed Mr Cantat at the height of the band’s career in 1993. He was very responsive, playful, good-humoured. We talked about our favourite subjects such as human rights, independent recording labels, and US movement ‘straight edge’. He gave us a bleak portrait of South America, which he had encapsulated in his song ‘Tostaki’. We parted, and I was feeling proud of having met and talked with such an interesting artist. A few years later, it was reported in the news that Cantat had repeatedly slapped his girlfriend, actress Marie Trintignan, in the face during a drunken domestic dispute. The actress died later from her injuries. The event started a general turmoil in the French celebrity milieu, as Marie Trintignan was the daughter of French actor and celebrity Jean-Louis Trintignan and a mother of four herself. The trauma spread quickly to the nation and has continued to unfold over many years. It is still going on: Cantat was convicted of manslaughter and imprisoned, and is now enjoying freedom since his release in July 2010 (Davies, 2010). So who do I see in my portrait of Cantat? A poet and talented singer-songwriter, a wife-beating drunken criminal, or even Charles Perry’s ‘Portrait of a Young Man Drowning’ (1962)? Who do you see? ‘The image withholds the truth, clouds its evidence, and tells us, finally nothing’ (Sturken 1997: 29).
Davies, L., 2010. Bertrand Cantat returns to the stage seven years after murdering his girlfriend. The Guardian, [online] 3 October 2010. Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/03/bertrand-cantat- girlfriend-murder [Accessed 8th March 2011].
Perry, C., 1962. Portrait d’un jeune homme qui se noie. Translated by M. Deutsch, 1997. Paris: Editions de l’Olivier.
Sturken, M., 1997. Tangled memories. Los Angeles: University of California Press.