The great French actress Jeanne Moreau died in July 2017 just before her 90th birthday. Her career spanned almost 70 years and she left quite a mark on the history of film. Virginie Linhart’s (Jacques Derrida, la courage de la pensee, Simone de Beauvoir, on ne sait pas femme) short documentary, which aired on French television, made its North American premiere at the Montreal FIFA.
As an actress and as a woman she challenged the norms. Coming of age in a rather puritanical society, her being liberated and avant-garde was considered revolutionary in her day. As such, many presentday actresses and women see her as a role model.
Born in 1928 to an English mother and French father in Montmarte. She wasn’t a planned child. Her mother had to give up her career as a dancer and Jeanne carried the guilt of that throughout her childhood. Unhappiness dominated her parents’ marriage.
A rather multi-disciplinary woman, she acted as well as sang. Within her career several of her 147 acting credits on Imdb are considered film masterpieces. She started out on the stage and then moved on to film and television. Jeanne got her first role at the age of 20. For the first 10 years of her career she starred in films which did not make much of an impression. Had a hard time finding her place in the French film world until Louis Malle cast her. By the end of the 1950s she became the actress of choice in France for most directors who had non traditional female roles in their films. A face of the French New Wave.
Always a groundbreaker in nature, she was one of the first French actresses to be filmed in the nude. This happened in the Malle film Les Amants which was released in 1958. Jeanne played a married woman who has an affair with a stranger. It also showed a woman having sexual pleasure. Was controversial at the time. Les Amants screened at the Venice Film Festival and met with some harsh criticism due to the sex scenes. The film was not shown in France for years.
Over her career she worked with many of the most respected directors of her time like Francois Truffaut, Malle, Luis Bunuel, and Orson Welles. She also worked with people like Miou-Miou, Brigitte Bardot, Fanny Ardant, Juliette Binoche, Marion Cotillard, Drew Barrymore, Vanessa Paradis, and Jean Reno. Always working she continued in film until the age of 82.
There was also some “discussion” over the actress as a mother. She got pregnant at the age of 21. It was not a planned pregnancy. Despite her hesitations she married the father of the child. All this happened at a time which women had to choose between work and motherhood, Jeanne chose work. Has said in interviews she was a mother, but not really maternal.
A model of female emancipation for many, Jeanne Moreau, like many in the arts, was a complex woman who was not afraid to speak her mind. Through a series of interviews with the woman herself, clips from her films and interviews which her colleagues gave about her you get a clear picture of Jeanne Moreau – actress and woman.