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Love 'Amour'? Check Out These Classics Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood January 3, 2013 at 12:50PM

Octogenarian French acting legends Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva give stunning, energetic performances as a married couple facing the bitter end in Michael Haneke's critically lauded, multi-awarded "Amour." Below, a look at some of the classic films that put Trintignant and Riva on the map.

"Leon Morin, Priest"
"Leon Morin, Priest"
4. “Leon Morin, Priest” (1961) Jean-Pierre Melville, a director known for his brilliantly methodical, male-oriented crime films, strays from his usual path with this deceptively circumscribed woman’s film that has one foot in the French New Wave. Riva stars as Barny, a resourceful Parisian widow relocated to the French countryside during World War II. Her world is almost entirely women -- all the men have either joined the Resistance or been taken to concentration camps -- until she stumbles into the confession booth of Leon Morin (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a smart, smoldering priest with manipulation to burn. Riva strikes a balance between aching wistfulness and devil-may-care buoyancy; her cartoonish shrug she repeats throughout the film is a gem. And the role requires some guts. Barny has an explicit lesbian crush on a co-worker, and at one point mentions masturbating with a stick (!).

5. “Les Biches” (1968) During an early sequence in “Amour,” Riva playfully teases that her husband was a bit of a handful in his early days, which Trintignant greets with a rascally, devilish smile. In “Les Biches,” Claude Chabrol’s erotic, malevolent psychological thriller, we get a glimpse of where that smile comes from. Trintignant plays Paul Thomas, a playboy so effortlessly cunning he breaks up the malaise-laden lesbian relationship between stunning beauties Stephane Audran and Jacqueline Sassard during their sojourn in Saint Tropez. Trintignant isn’t a typical screen Lothario, but his steady gaze and guarded seriousness -- which breaks at key moments for, yes, that smile -- suggests powerful seduction lurking under an unassuming surface.

6. & 7. “Three Colors: Blue” (1993) and “Red” (1994) Both Trintignant and Riva have roles in Krysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy. Riva plays Juliette Binoche’s Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother in “Blue,” a small role, but emotionally crucial to understanding the film’s themes of strained yet resilient human connection. (Case in point: Riva watches a TV special, mesmerized, as bungee jumpers plummet and then bounce on their dancing cords.) Trintignant has a larger role in “Red,” playing a hermetic judge who has seemingly given up on morality, tapping the adulterous phone conversations of his next-door neighbors. Kieslowski’s films look at the strange, almost magical interconnectivity of the universe -- unrelated events collide and complete strangers find each other. It’s appropriately Kieslowskian that Trintignant and Riva, who never appeared onscreen together until “Amour,” would have roles in the bookending installments of this trio of films. A sign of collaboration to come.

This article is related to: Features, Amour, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Michael Haneke, Emmanuelle Riva, Classics

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.