Thursday, February 6, 2014

Black Desire — A Love Story, At Home, With Family

The French can rock.  Just ask them: they'll blast Noir Désir. Then, over the crashing, clashing, clanging guitars, the bludgeoned butcher-block beats, the squawling, the howling, amidst and across all that cigarette smoke, they'll tell how the singer beat his movie-star girlfriend to death.

Before Bertrand Cantat came along, France longed desperately for a Jim Morrison of its very own. Cantat more than fit the role: pop culture poet, pure, political, primitive, pissed off, pug-nosed, pretty. 
En plus, he's also a convicted killer, the kind who beats his girlfriend into a coma, the kind of coma where she dies. And Marie Trintignant did just that, on August 1, 2003, four days after she took her beating. She was 41, an exceptionally accomplished actress, and yet a bit of a rebel, in that hushed, privileged, bourgeois-French kind of way. Her father, Jean-Louis Trintignant, is a famous actor as well; Nadine Trintignant, her mother, a famous director. Marie was classically pretty but she was also sexy, sensual, sultry,  perhaps a wee bit insane. Watching her on screen you were wary and slightly afraid, even a little excited to see what she might do next. What she did next, on location in Lithuania, playing the part of Colette in one of her mother's films, was get savagely beaten to death in her own hotel room by France's own rock 'n' roll Rimbaud. 

She'd fallen on the radiator, he said. It was one of his least poetic lines.

Cantat served four years of an eight-year sentence — if they don’t exactly get off scot-free in France, poet-geniuses are at least cut some signicant slack . . . and who could deny that making the French language rock is anything short of genius? In January of this year, a little over three years after he got out, Bertrand was at the home of a former girlfriend, mother of his two kids, the one he'd left for Marie. The two talked, visited, went to bed. Sometime in the night, while he was sleeping, Cantat’s lover committed suicide – it was one of the children who found her the next morning in the kitchen, hanging from a cord.

Since the night when Bertrand Cantat beat Marie Trintignant’s face so hard that her entire body eventually succumbed, there has been almost no news from France’s biggest rock band. Back when Cantat was still in jail, rumors ran rife that he was writing songs in his cell, that he was being let out on day passes to join the rest of Noir Désir in the studio. There were those two free downloads the band issued not long after Cantat’s release, but aside from that, nothing much, not much at all. There was a deal, though —in the music business, there are always deals. After he'd cut a deal with authorities — his newly-adjusted parole includes the right to travel, and the right to speak freely of Trintignant — Cantat and the rest of his crew cut another deal, this time with their record label. Three albums. To be delivered before even the French quit purchasing CDs.

Bertrand Cantat’s first stage appearance 
apres prison took place the first weekend of October at an idyllic festival in his home district of Bordeaux. He was performing not with his own band — they've remained deathly silent — but with the ultra-predictably-named Eiffel. Announced at the last minute, all France was alerted. His first words? "Ah, ca fait plaisir, en plus a la maison et en famille." "It's a pleasure to be at home, and with family."  Then he went on to encore with  "I'm the world's forgotten boy.....the one who's searching to destroy..." from Iggy and the Stooges.

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