( b. Mar 06, 1922 FRANCE - d. Feb 02, 2009 Paris, FRANCE ) Male
Jean Martin was one of the foremost exponents of Samuel Beckett, but also appeared in films by Sergio Leone, Jacques Rivette and Gillo Pontecorvo, though a sustained international cinema career eluded him.
His cinema career began inauspiciously with a tiny role in the Maigret adaptation Cécile est morte! (Cécile is Dead!, 1944). Thereafter he played a host of character parts and a couple of starring roles in films. But initially his primary interest was the theatre and after the war he became involved with the avant-garde.
En attendant Godot (Waiting for Godot) was premiered in January 1953, and was a last hurrah for Jean-Marie Serrau’s near-bankrupt Left Bank Babylon Theatre. In preparation Martin studied people with Parkinson’s disease and played Pozzo’s slave, Lucky, like a beaten dog, shabby, dribbling and trembling. The effect was so disturbing that on one occasion the curtain had to be brought down to quell the derisive audience. Martin was the last survivor of the original cast.
But Martin’s imperious stance meant that more often he played petit-bourgeois or establishment figures such as hotel managers or priests.
His cinema career restarted with a small role in Jean Delannoy’s Hugo adaptation Notre Dame de Paris (1956), but the following year he and his Godot co-star and director Roger Blin returned to Beckett, premiering Fin de partie (Endgame) at the Royal Court. Martin played the endlessly pacing, just-about-to-leave Clov against Blin’s blind and paralysed Hamm.
In 1960 Martin appeared in Rivette’s obliquely plotted Paris nous appartient (Paris Belongs to Us). But the politically committed Martin was also one of 121, mainly left-wing, French intellectuals who demanded recognition of the Algerians’ struggle and denounced the use of torture in the war. He was one of the many signatories of the manifesto of the 121, who were blacklisted.
Returning to the theatre he starred in the French premiere of Pinter’s The Caretaker, but in 1966 Rivette’s film La Religieuse (The Nun), adapted from Diderot’s novel, was banned, while Martin found his career defining — if troubled — cinema role. In Pontecorvo’s explosive The Battle of Algiers Martin played the implacable Colonel Mathieu with a matter-of-fact attitude to torture: “We must isolate and destroy them.” Though it does not condone the Algerians’ tactics, the film was censored in Britain and banned in France until 1971 when rioting disrupted its brief run, and it was withdrawn until 2004.
Martin’s character roles continued in films such as Alain Resnais’s Je t’aime, je t’aime (1968), an avant-garde time-travel drama about love and regret, and Jules Dassin’s adaptation of Romain Gary’s autobiography Promise at Dawn (1970). That year Martin rejoined Beckett to play Krapp, disturbing the writer-director by asking to operate the tape recorder himself. Given the fact that, should anything go wrong the play would collapse, Beckett was unwilling but agreed on the condition that there was a back-up machine. In the event, it proved unnecessary.
In the mid-1970s Martin appeared in some of French cinema’s explorations of sexuality, notably the tortuous love triangle Le remparts des beguines (1972), from Françoise Mallet-Joris’s novel, and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Glissements progressifs du plaisir (Successive Slidings of Pleasure, 1974), in which he played a sadistic priest.
In 1973 Martin returned to the Algerian War with Zinnemann’s The Day of the Jackal, about right-wing nationalists’ plot to assassinate de Gaulle for capitulating. Martin is suspected of organising fund-raising bank-raids and, ironically, for reversing his role for Pontecorvo, is tortured. That year Martin also appeared with Terence Hill and Henry Fonda in Leone’s Il mio nome è Nessuno, (My Name is Nobody) about a world-weary gunfighter who just wants to retire. Though Martin would work with Leone several more times, there would be nothing to match this.
In 1975 he worked in anot