During the last few hours, reports have been coming in that one of the greatest of all French movie stars has just passed away at age 89. Jeanne Moreau was a major figure in the French New Wave during the late 1950’s and the first half of the 1960’s due to her striking roles in world cinema classics such as Les amants [The Lovers], Les Liaisons dangereuses [Dangerous Liasons], Ascenseur pour l’echafaud [Lift To The Scaffold] and of course the immortal Jules et Jim, though being a big Jacques Demy fan perhaps my personal favourite amongst these is La baie des anges [Bay Of Angels]. She worked with most of the prominent French filmmakers of the time and was sought out by the likes of Orson Welles [The Trial], Luis Bunuel [Diary Of A Chambermaid] and Joseph Losey [Eva] for their films. Though she did make the odd Hollywood hit like The Train, she tended to go for interesting, offbeat projects which were often just as likely to fail as succeed, and good roles seemed to become scarce in the 1970’s, as if filmmakers didn’t know entirely what to do with her as she aged, though she remained busy, seeming to enjoy performing on stage more than being in films, and every now and again putting in a strong appearance in films like La femme Nikita and Ever After.
Moreau was certainly not the most conventionally pretty of actresses, but she possessed an extraordinary carnality on screen which seemed totally natural and was therefore extremely sexy. Couple this with a hugely powerful screen presence and considerable acting ability and the lady was quite unique. Orson Welles once called her “the greatest actress in the world.” When I watch something like La baie des anges, Jules et Jim or La mariée était en noir [The Bride Wore Black], it’s hard not to disagree with him.