When Emmanuelle Riva gets an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in January next year for her shattering work in Michael Haneke’s Amour, her nod won’t help but feel a tad bittersweet for the fact that her equally brilliant co-star Jean-Louis Trintignant not only won’t be nominated as Best Actor, but he won’t even figure into the pre-Oscar conversation as much.
I know, it sounds ridiculous to bring up a male bias when more often than not Oscar is accused of chauvinism, but it does seem that whenever there is a particularly strong female performance, Oscar chooses to overlook the male counterpart, as if the two couldn’t be recognized (this is the reason why only seven movies have won both awards). Most recently this has been seen in cases like Shakespeare in Love (won Best Actress for Gwyneth Paltrow while SAG and Golden Globe nominee Joseph Fiennes was denied a Best Actor nomination), Titanic (Leo’s snub remains among the most famous), Rabbit Hole (Nicole Kidman was nominated while her equally exceptional co-star Aaron Eckhart was snubbed) and the case that got me thinking about Trintignant the most was that of Gordon Pinsent’s snub for Away From Her.
Like in Haneke’s movie, Sarah Polley’s lovely film centers on the post-disease life of an old married couple. In Amour a stroke leaves the wife disabled, in Away From Her, Fiona (Julie Christie) is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s leaving her husband Grant (Pinsent) to look after her. While both Christie and Riva’s performances are unrivaled in terms of physical demands and “losing” themselves in their characters, their onscreen husbands went practically unrecognized in terms of awards.
Trintignant is a living legend who has suffered this kind of snub in the past - Anouk Aimée was nominated as Best Actress for A Man and a Woman without a corresponding Best Actor mention - yet even that’s not a strong enough case for the actor’s talents as is his Georges Amour. In the movie - which has already won him a Best Actor statuette from the European Film Academy - he has to interiorize everything that Anne, Riva’s character, exteriorized. For every painful turn in Anne’s disease we see an equally, if subtler to the point of imperceptibility, reflection in Georges face.
It can be argued that his performance is just as complex as Riva’s, but it’s not just as “showy” (let it be stated that “showy” in this case is simply used for lack of better words). Trintingnant proves that he is an actor unafraid of becoming truly monstrous onscreen, yet when juxtaposed with the compassion shown by Georges he also has a profoundly moving qualities. His ability to listen without reacting is mesmerizing and when the film reaches its devastating finale, you will realize that few actors would’ve dared to look death straight in the face like he does, without having it completely destroy them.
Why do you think Trintignant has been so left out of the awards talk? Where would you rank him among this year’s best male performances?