Bbertrand Cantat Biography

At 8:00 A.M. on July 27, 2003, Marie Trintignant, 41-year-old daughter of French cinema legend Jean-Louis Trintignant and a major film star in her own right, arrived by ambulance at the Vilnius University Hospital located in the capital city of Lithuania. Trintignant, in Vilnius since early June to shoot the joint French-Lithuanian telefilm Colette, the biography of the nineteenth century French novelist, was already in a deep coma and being kept alive by life support as the result of what appeared to be a vicious beating administered to her face and skull. Her lover, rock starpoet Bertrand Cantat, 39, of the French megagroup Noir Desir, was admitted to the same hospital two hours later suffering from a suspected overdose of drugs ingested in a failed suicide attempt. It was later determined that Cantat, the band's central creative force, had downed only two packets of vitamin C and a couple of depressants. For months, the pair's love affair had been played out under the merciless glare of the French press. Trintignant, famous for playing brutalized, but defiant women condemned by society in such films as Une Affaire de Femmes (1988) and Betty (1992), had very publicly left her current lover and father of two of her four children, film director Samuel Benchetrit, to be with the rock star after they met in the summer of 2002. Cantat, often called the "French Jim Morrison," was regarded in Gallic rock circles as an icon for France's anticapitalist youth, a pacifist and supporter of various humanitarian causes ranging from anti-racism to the environment. The day after Cantat's wife, Kristina, gave birth to their son in September, the rock star left her to be with Trintignant, his apparent "soul mate." From the first, the relationship seemed to be obsessive on the part of Bertrand Cantat. In the summer of 2003, he followed Trintignant to Vilnius where she was starring in the title role of the made-for-television movie Colette directed by her mother, Nadine Trintignant. Normally outgoing with the film crew, the actress now spent all of her off-camera time alone with her lover in their three-room suite, Number 35, at the Domina Plaza hotel in downtown Vilnius. On the day of the tragedy, a neighbor in the hotel reported hearing a loud argument followed by the sound of a crashing chair. As Trintignant lay in a death-like coma at the hospital, her lover initially told authorities that he slapped her only once across the face during a drunken argument and she fell awkwardly striking her head on the floor. Attending physician Dr. Robertas Kvascevius performed emergency surgery on the actress to relieve pressure on her brain caused by cerebral hemorrhage, but afterwards pronounced that she had literally no chance to survive. At the request of the French government, neurosurgeon Stephane Delajoux was flown to Vilnius to perform a "last chance" operation to save the brain dead actress. Delajoux, however, concurred with his colleague's prognosis, informing the press, "Medically there is no more we can do. We can make her comfortable, but it is not necessary. She is in a state where there is no suffering, neither moral nor physical." As Cantat was held in a pretrial detention facility on a preliminary charge of suspicion of causing bodily harm, Trintignant was flown back to Paris in a private jet so she could die on French soil in accordance with the wishes of her parents. The popular actress expired on August 1, 2003, five days after the assault, of cerebral edema, and was buried amid great fanfare near the grave of rock legend Jim Morrison in the Cimitiere du Pere Lachaise in Paris. The results of the autopsy failed to support Cantat's claim that he struck Trintignant once and she then hit her head on the floor. The beautiful actress had suffered multiple facial trauma including nose fractures, a hemorrhaging of the optic nerve, and cerebral lesions nearly identical to those found in shaken babies. Failing in his bid for extradition to France for trial, Cantat faced a Lithuanian legal system that did not recognize the mitigating French concept of a "crime of passion." If the crime was found to be the result of "extreme emotion," the rock star could do as little as six years prison time possibly to be served in a French penitentiary. Held initially on a charge of manslaughter (later upgraded to murder), Cantat maintained that Marie's death was a "tragic accident" and kept fit in his single-bed cell in Lukiskiu Prison by doing yoga and reading his voluminous fan mail. In France, the death of Trintignant polarized the public into those who viewed Cantat as a violently jealous abuser of women (he allegedly once struck his wife), or, a tragically romantic figure who just got carried away by a fit of jealousy during a night of heavy drinking. Supporters of the rock star met at the trendy nightclub Cafe de Paris in Vilnius in a show of strength to both raise Cantat's spirits and to pay tribute to the dead actress. Trintig - nant's family was outraged when they learned that during the festivities excerpts of the actress's films were projected onto the walls of the club. Meanwhile, an unidentified arsonist torched Cantat's home in the south of France burning it to the ground. Nadine Trintignant, Marie's mother, took a more direct route in blaming the rock star for her daughter's death. In October 2003, the director published her book, Ma Fille, Marie (My Daughter, Marie), overcoming a legal challenge by Cantat's attorney that its publication would undermine his client's right to be presumed innocent. Though Trintignant never referred to Cantat by name in the book, no reader encountering the term "murderer" 85 times in the text could fail to understand who she meant. The book became a best seller in France where the public was hungry for any information about the sensational case. An international press corps of over 200 journalists packed the Vilnius District Court as Cantat's trial began before a three-judge panel on March 16, 2004. Under Lithuanian law, the rock star did not have to enter a plea, but faced a maximum 15 year sentence if found guilty of man - slaughter. In the course of the three day trial, the events leading up to the tragic incident unfolded as several witnesses, including Cantat and Nadine Trintignant, testified before the spell bound courtroom. According to testimony, on July 26, 2003, Cantat and Trintignant attended a wrap-party for Colette at the Vilnius Literary Club, leaving together at 9:50 P.M. to drop by the home of Andrus Leligua, the film's third assistant director. Earlier in the day, Cantat became enraged when Trintignant received a text message from former lover and father of two of her children, Samuel Ben - chetrit, signed bisou ("little kisses.") As the pair continued to drink and smoke pot with Leligua, a jealous Cantat challenged the actress to sever all contact with her former lovers, proving his sincerity by phoning his estranged lover, Kristina, to dramatically inform her that "I no longer want us to have close relations." When Trintignant failed to respond in kind, the rock singer threw a glass across the room, wrenched the seated actress to her feet, and shoved her down. The tense atmosphere persisted after the pair returned to Suite No. 25 at the Domina Plaza shortly after midnight. According to Cantat's emotional testimony, Trintignant slapped him in the face as they argued about her relationship with Benchetrit and their sons. Cantat angrily responded by slapping (not punching, he insisted) her four times across the face with the flat of his hand. "Perhaps Marie hit her head on the door frame," he told the court, "I'd had enough of all that and wanted to shut her up." Cantat put the unconscious woman to bed allegedly unaware of the severity of her injuries. Vincent Trintignant, Marie's brother, arrived at the suite at 7:30 A.M., and unable to rouse his comatose sister, frantically phoned for an ambulance. The forensic evidence contradicted Cantat's "four slap" account strongly suggesting that Trin - tignant had endured 19 blows to her head, shattering her nose and causing brain swelling. Cantat concluded his testimony by addressing Nadine Trintignant, Marie's mother who had charac - terized the rock star as an "assassin" without regret, from the stand: "I want to tell you this even if you are incapable of hearing it. I want you to know I loved Marie." Asked by the court if she wanted to respond to Cantat, she said, "I've heard too many lies and if I had to speak, I would express myself poorly." On March 29, 2004, Cantat was sentenced to 8 years for voluntary homicide escaping the maximum penalty of 15 years. The popular musician dropped his plan to appeal the sentence on the assurance that he might possibly be able to serve his time in a French prison. While awaiting the decision on his petition to transfer to a penitentiary in France, Cantat gave an hour-long acoustic guitar concert to an overflow crowd of fellow-inmates in Lukiskiu Prison. The next month, he was transferred to a French prison to serve out the remainder of his term. In a final twist on this tragic case, Stephane Delajoux, the French neurosur - geon who performed the second operation on Trintignant in Vilnius, was found guilty of fraud in 2005 after attempting to bilk an insurance company out of $80,000 by pretending to be paralyzed as the result of a skiing accident. In addition to his suspended prison sentence, Dr. Delajoux was banned for at least six months (possibly three years) from performing any surgeries.

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