Some people feel strongly about Meryl Streep or Viola Davis, or really any phenomenally talented actress alive today. Roll all those feelings together of all those fans combined and that is what I feel for Jeanne Moreau. The news of her passing feels like I’ve lost a very dear beloved family member. Her searing or provocative roles, combined with her ability to deliver smoldering sensuality makes her your faves’ fave.
The life you had is nothing. It is the life you have that is important. – Jeanne Moreau
They could never, not with two lifetimes come close to the body of work that Jeanne Moreau has produced. An incomparable force who gave us 70 years on screen, theater, and perfecting her craft. Your fave can & would never, ever. In French or English, doesn’t matter.
Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves
The tragic chanteuse in Querelle was probably my very first introduction to her. A cinematic and underground classic by Rainer Werner Fassbinder which will not be to everyone’s liking. No mind, it was and is a masterpiece. Jeanne Moreau was 54 when she filmed this, and could deliver what we might think of as a tired fag-hag in 1982. Yet as daunting as this role had to be, she singes your heart and melts away any preconceptions you might have. That is just my considered opinion, you can send your responses in the negative anywhere else.
Starting at 19 she had the chance to work with (and often befriend or bed) Jean Cocteau, Truffuat, Louise Malle, Orson Wells, Pierre Cardin, Henry Miller, Jean Genet, Luis Buñuel, Miles Davis, Elia Kazan, Antonioni, Luc Besson, Wim Wenders, and the list can go on for days.
She stole Vanessa Redgrave’s husband (bisexual Tony Richardson – father of the late great Natasha Richardson) and didn’t even bother to marry him. Boss Ass Bitch.
While she could be considered the very archetype of White Feminism, embodiment of Second Wave Feminism, and all the other things. Those would be actual factuals. Which wouldn’t do an iota to dim her shine. For what she delivered wasn’t mired in an American dialectic which would be quite problematic for her to weigh in on. That doesn’t mean France is any less anti-black (do your googles or read a book) but as we’ve seen in recent years — let your problematic faves stay in their lane.
This particular ministry was 70 years long, and as such saw probably just about enough of everything. Very few of your favorite actresses can say that her case went to the Supreme Court of the United States as was the case of ‘L’aments’ being banned in this puritanical nation:
In Malle’s “The Lovers” (1958), she abandons her child and bourgeois husband for a stranger who rekindles her sexual ardor. The film’s depiction of female sexual pleasure figured in a U.S. Supreme Court test of obscenity laws, prompting Justice Potter Stewart’s memorable line about pornography: “I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”
There was never and may ever be another like her. So it is not with a forlorn sadness, as she clearly lived a life or three both in public and private. Yet, here we are, lucky to have been alive during her time. Blessed by over 100 films, each worth watching again, even the stinkers. Now she is gone, however and we must deal. The Washington Post obituary above seems to backhand compliment her roles by saying she chose them based on director. A patriarchal way of saying she thought with her pussy. Which I find abhorrent.
She has no Academy Awards for her performance (only a Lifetime Achievement a good 20 years before her death), and a scant few other awards. Yet she was a tour de force, femme fatale, icon, and all the other rapturous words we use to describe powerful women. They fall flat.
She was those things, among many complex and other traits. Simply indescribable, undefined, and mercurial. As quickly changing as her facial expressions in any of the cinematic masterpieces that she gifted us.
No, what you start, when you are very young, you start, you burn the wood of the stage and it’s you, you, you, it’s me, me, me, my ego and I go there and you have to kick me out of the stage. The second period you think what am I doing? All these people watching me. Am I good enough? What I give them is the food I give them — tasty and good. Big question. And then there’s the third stage, then you let things go through you. It’s not you. You, you, you discover human nature. It’s like I’m a traveler, not on the surface of the earth, sometimes, but deep, deep, deep inside human beings. I discover the ambiguity, I accept the darkness and the light. I accept anything — I have to go inside and dig to find pure gold…
– Jeanne Moreau (Charlie Rose, 2003)
[speaking in 1965] People who wanted to be nice about my looks always would say, “You remind me so much of Bette Davis.” Very nice, except I can’t stand Bette Davis. – Jeanne Moreau