Thursday 3 August 2017

Vale Jeanne Moreau (4) - Michael Campi and Noel Bjorndahl pay their respects

Moreau, Stanley Baker, Eva
Michael Campi: Already so many admiring and insightful tributes to Jeanne Moreau have been posted here and in so many other places following the sad news of her passing a couple of days ago.  One imagines larger and smaller retrospectives will grace the world's Cinémathèques and art houses in coming months. Moreau embodied so much of the history of the French cinema for well over half of its very existence.

She illuminated unforgettable films in France by Becker, Malle, Truffaut, Demy, Renoir, Duras and so many more intermingled with more international projects for Welles, Losey, Bunuel, Brook, Frankenheimer, Antonioni, Angelopoulos, Ward, Wenders, Fassbinder etc.  The list is a mighty one with the best part of 150 films in which she appeared. 

Although my first glimpse of Jeanne Moreau was probably the trailer for Malle's LES AMANTS at the Savoy in Russell St., Melbourne, around 1960, I didn't see the film itself till later at Melbourne University.  it was probably that vital release of Truffaut's JULES ET JIM at the Australia Cinema in Collins St. in 1963 that presented my first full feature engagement with her remarkable presence.

Because of the vagaries of censorship and film distribution at that time, we saw the less mainstream films quite out of the sequence of their production dates. The occasional Godard would be banned while most foreign language films were distributed with one 35mm print for the life of the local distribution rights. Each film was released city by city.  We saw Truffaut's third film before his second and his first feature, LES QUATRE CENTS COUPS, with a short Moreau appearance, wasn't seen by many of us until it was revived by the recently departed Robert Ward at the Dendy in Brighton a couple of years later still.  

Truffaut's third feature was a revelation to us in 1963. Ostensibly a film about two guys in a close friendship, Truffaut's tender and dark, always emotionally affecting film spot-lit Moreau's Catherine, flying through life and lovers like the whirlwind of the song so fondly remembered from the film.

As the remembrances flow this week, it seems Catherine in Truffaut's film and Jackie in Demy's magnificent LA BAIE DES ANGES, are the two roles which are most firmly etched in the memories of many of her admirers.

It's not easy to imagine the cinema moving on without another Moreau film.
Moreau, Jean-Louis Bory, Les Amants

Noel Bjorndahl: The death of the eminent, glorious French actress Jeanne Moreau has created an outpouring of grief the likes of which have been accorded to very few film stars. However, it's not at all surprising. Her contributions to the stage were highly regarded from the late 1940s. Louis Malle was the first director to give her wider exposure by casting her in leading roles in two films  L’Ascenseur pour l'Echafaud (Lift to the Scaffold) and Les Amants (The Lovers), both released towards the end of the 1950s. She was soon described in glowing terms that emphasised a sophistication encompassing many opposites such as strength and vulnerability, subtlety and strong projection, femininity and carnality.  She was passionate and intelligent. She worked with the crème de la crème of French directors.

Among my most treasured of her roles, I include La Notte (Antonioni), Une Femme est Une Femme (Godard), Diary of a Chambermaid (Bunuel), Jules et Jim (Truffaut), Bay of Angels (Demy), Eva (Losey), The Trial (Welles), Falstaff/Chimes at Midnight (Welles).


Moreau, Anthony Perkins, The Trial

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