He was the one of the biggest French rock-stars of the 1990s, whose career seemed over for good when he was convicted of murdering his film-star girlfriend during an argument in a Lithuanian hotel room in 2003. But Bertrand Cantat, the former frontman of the French band Noir Desir who was released in 2010 after serving half of his eight-year jail term is planning to release a new solo album later this year, a move likely to provoke outrage from campaigners against domestic violence.
Confirmation of Cantat’s first solo album, tentatively slated for November, comes at a time when his image could hardly be worse. Although he has a loyal fan-base particularly around Bordeaux where he spent much of his youth his name remains synonymous with one of the most shocking domestic violence cases of recent years. Marie Trintignant, 41, a popular and respected actor and mother of four, died 10 years ago on 1 August. Cantat insisted that, although he hit Trintignant “four times” during a row about a text message she had received from her ex-husband, her fatal head injuries were caused when her head struck a radiator. In March 2004 a Lithuanian court convicted him of murder with indirect intent, meaning it believed he had not wanted to kill his partner but had knowingly done so anyway.
Trintignant was the daughter of well-known French art-house actor Jean-Louis Trintignant, who won last year’s Cannes best actor award for the Michael Haneke film, Amour. The actor said in a book of interviews last year: “Marie’s death was the biggest suffering of my life.”
Last month a new book about the Trintignant case by two journalists released fresh material, namely about Cantat’s relationship with Kristina Rady, his former wife and mother of his two children. At Canta’s murder trial, Rady stood by the singer and said he’d never been violent with her. When Cantat was released from prison he returned to live with Rady. But the book reveals a long phone message allegedly left by Rady for her parents at the start of 2010 in which she describes his violence towards her since leaving prison, “a real nightmare he calls love”.
She described a broken elbow, and said she was living in fear having just “escaped the worst”. She reportedly said: “Outside, everyone thinks he’s an icon, a star, then he comes back home and does horrible things to me in front of the family.” Rady hanged herself at their Bordeaux home six months after the alleged call. Cantat, who was asleep at the time she killed herself, was questioned by police but no action was taken against him.
Although Cantat’s band, Noir Desir, broke up after he left prison, he has tentatively begun a comeback with a few gigs and guest appearances on others’ recordings. But controversy has surrounded his return to the stage.
In 2011 he cancelled two planned performances at the Avignon theatre festival after his presence led Jean-Louis Trintignant, to pull out of the same festival in disgust. Trintignant told Le Figaro: “Why can’t people understand that there’s something terrible in his way of coming back as if nothing has happened?”
After the Avignon incident, theatres in Canada also cancelled Cantat’s shows. Last year Cantat appeared on an album by the Malian singers Amadou and Mariam, causing media to question the African duo. “It was a professional encounter, we were not interested in his private life,” Amadou told the French paper Liberation earlier this year.