French film leg­end Jeanne Moreau dies at 89

'Al­ways re­belled against the es­tab­lished or­der'

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

French ac­tress Jeanne Moreau, who lit up the screen in "Jules et Jim" and starred in some of the most crit­i­cally-ac­claimed films of the 20th cen­tury, has died aged 89, her agent said yes­ter­day. The gravel-voiced ac­tress epit­o­mized the free­doms of the 1960s and brought dar­ing, depth and dan­ger to a string of cin­e­matic mas­ter­pieces from Louis Malle's "Lift to the Scaf­fold" to Jac­ques Demy's "Bay of An­gels". Moreau, who was still mak­ing films at 87, was found dead at her home in Paris early yes­ter­day, the district's mayor told AFP.

Once de­scribed by US di­rec­tor Or­son Welles as "the best ac­tress in the world", she was a fem­i­nist icon and trail­blazer for lib­er­ated women as well as the face of French New Wave. "Phys­i­cal beauty is a dis­grace," she once said in her char­ac­ter­is­tic rasp, her voice redo­lent with strong French cig­a­rettes she smoked. Yet that did not stop her be­com­ing the think­ing man's femme fa­tale with film scholar David Ship­man call­ing her "the art­house love god­dess". Lead­ing tributes to the plain-speak­ing ac­tress, French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron said Moreau had "em­bod­ied cin­ema" and she was a free spirit who "al­ways re­belled against the es­tab­lished or­der".

Fel­low French screen leg­end Brigitte Bar­dot told AFP, "Jeanne was a beau­ti­ful, in­tel­li­gent, hugely se­duc­tive woman with a voice and a per­son­al­ity that made her an ac­tress with so many sides. I am very sad to­day." For­mer cul­ture min­is­ter Jack Lang added, "She came into a tightly-corseted so­ci­ety and showed a whole gen­er­a­tion of women the path to eman­ci­pa­tion."

It was that sparky rebel spirit that brought some of the world's great­est di­rec­tors to her door, from Welles for his "Chimes at Mid­night", to Michelan­gelo An­to­nioni for "La Notte", Joseph Losey ("Eva") and Luis Bunuel for his 1964 film "Diary of a Cham­ber­maid". But Moreau turned down Mike Ni­chols, who wanted her to play Mrs Robin­son in "The Grad­u­ate".

De­fied her father

Born in Paris 1928 to an English cho­rus girl from Old­ham and a French cafe owner, she took to act­ing with ap­par­ent ef­fort­less ease, de­fy­ing her father by join­ing the Paris con­ser­va­toire at the age of 18, and gain­ing en­try to the elite Come­die Fran­caise the­atre troupe two years later. Her break­through came in 1958 when she starred in two films for Malle that chal­lenged the moral cer­ti­tudes of the times. She played a wife plot­ting to kill her hus­band in "Lift to the Scaf­fold" with its iconic jazz score by Miles Davis, and fur­ther ruf­fled feath­ers in "The Lovers", her first ex­cur­sion into the sex­ual frank­ness that marked much of her later work.

But it was her tomboy play­ful­ness that won her the hearts of a whole gen­er­a­tion of film­go­ers in "Jules et Jim", play­ing the woman at the cen­ter of a menage-a-trois with two best friends, one Aus­trian and one French on the eve of World War I. Fran­cois Truf­faut-who di­rected the film-said "ev­ery time I pic­ture her in the dis­tance I see her read­ing not a news­pa­per but a book, be­cause Jeanne Moreau doesn't sug­gest flir­ta­tion but love."

Nei­ther pretty nor plain, her fea­tures could range in an in­stant from ra­di­ance to las­si­tude, and au­di­ences and crit­ics found her spell­bind­ing. Her oc­ca­sional sor­ties into English-lan­guage cin­ema in­cluded Carl Fore­man's "The Vic­tors" and John Franken­heimer's wartime epic "The Train".

Loved younger men

But Moreau was most at home in her na­tive land, with a pen­chant for chal­leng­ing, lit­er­ate movies of­ten adapted from works by such writ­ers as Jean Genet and Mar­guerite Duras. In 1974, her sex scenes in "Les Valseuses" with young thugs played by Ger­ard Depar­dieu and Pa­trick De­waere caused a scan­dal. Mostly, how­ever, she chose to age grace­fully, con­fin­ing her­self mainly to sec­ondary roles as in Losey's clas­sic "Mr Klein" or Elia Kazan's "The Last Ty­coon" and then, tak­ing in a brief mar­riage to the Amer­i­can di­rec­tor Wil­liam Fried­kin, tried her hand at di­rect­ing with "Lu­miere" and "L'Ado­les­cente".

She could also sing with her catchy ren­di­tion of "Le Tour­bil­lon de la Vie" from "Jules et Jim" in­spired by her tu­mul­tuous first mar­riage to the ac­tor-di­rec­tor Jean-Louis Richard. Never short of male com­pany, she was also ro­man­ti­cally linked with Malle, Truf­faut, Wells, Tony Richard­son and Mar­cello Mastroianni and the fash­ion de­signer Pierre Cardin among oth­ers. Late in life she con­fessed she had never found "ab­so­lute love", telling a bi­og­ra­pher that she never tired of look­ing. "I al­ways liked to be with younger men and luck­ily for me the older I have got the more younger men I've found."

De­spite her many hon­ors in­clud­ing head­ing the state com­mis­sion that dis­penses sub­si­dies to French film­mak­ers and chair­ing the Cannes fes­ti­val jury she was ever ready to take on dar­ing, even sala­cious roles. In 1994 she played an ex­otic half-Bri­tish, half-Egyp­tian woman with a flam­boy­ant sex­ual past in the Bri­tish tele­vi­sion play "The Sum­mer House". She did so, she said, as a tribute to her mother who had re­cently died. Hav­ing racked up over 130 films over six decades, she con­tin­ued act­ing till the end. "Film­ing with Jeanne Moreau wasn't easy," said Il­mar Raag, who shot her in "An Es­to­nian in Paris" in 2012. "She read the scripts and sug­gested changes the next day. In gen­eral they were good com­ments." Moreau mar­ried twice and had a son, Jerome, from her first mar­riage to Richard. — AFP

This file photo shows French ac­tress Jeanne Moreau as she per­forms a scene of the play "La Guerre des fils de lu­miere con­tre les fils des tene­bres".

In this file photo French Ac­tress Jeanne Moreau waves to pho­tog­ra­phers while on her way to the 16th An­nual Euro­pean Film Awards in Ber­lin. — AFP pho­tos

This file pho­to­graph taken on Jan­uary 24, 1960, shows French ac­tress Jeanne Moreau as she poses in Paris.

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