by Robert Regan ~ posted January 23rd, 2018
JEANNE MOREAU hit New York like a ton of dynamite in 1961. One after another, starting with “Elevator to the Gallows” (1958), “The Lovers” (1958), “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” (1959) and “La Notte” (1961), her films opened here, and this new face eclipsed that of every other French actress we had ever seen.
She did not look like all the other girls. In fact, she came to America a fully grown woman. We had not seen any of the two dozen movies she made during her twenties. Probably just as well, since the few that have turned up here since then and stills from the others show they didn’t know what to do with her. Perhaps it took her thirty years to grow into herself. Perhaps it took new filmmakers like Louis Malle, Michelangelo Antonioni, and even Roger Vadim to see her real face and put it on the screen. Probably both are true. The following year, Francois Truffaut gave her the role of a lifetime in “Jules and Jim” (1962), and she dominated cinema for the rest of her life.
After her final fade-out I chose to revisit one of her masterpieces by Orson Welles or Francois Truffaut. In memoriam, I saw two of her somewhat less than great movies that showed two opposite sides of her screen image: Joseph Losey’s “Eva” (1962) in which her femme is more fatale than ever; she destroys Stanley Baker without even trying…all set in Venice in black and white, CinemaScope and with music by Miles Davis and Billie Holiday. The other, “Viva Maria” (1965), a Louis Malle comedy with Moreau and Bardot as revolutionaries in early 20th century Mexico. Both stars are unbelievably cute.
Of her 145 credits, those we are most familiar with were from the sixties and seventies, but she never stopped working, was always there leaving much to be discovered and rediscovered.