Jeanne Moreau (23 January 1928 – 31 July 2017)
What to say about Jeanne Moreau? Quite simply, she was the most exquisitely gifted actress of her generation, another in a long line of French actresses for whom giving a bad performance seems an impossibility. She began her career in 1947 at the Comédie-Française, and worked steadily both in the theatre and in small roles on the big screen, making a name for herself and building a reputation for excellent work that she maintained all the way through to her final movie appearance in 2015 (and despite those early movie roles failing to bring her much success). It was the first of four collaborations with Louis Malle, Lift to the Scaffold (1958), that brought her to the attention of a wider, international audience. It proved to be the spark that lit the fuse on a tremendous run of movies throughout the Sixties, a period where her status as a forceful screen presence was cemented. She could be mysterious, sexy, aloof, fearless, carefree, and unassailably pragmatic – all these things and more. But above all she could always find the emotional core, and the honesty of a character, and use these to give a flawless, mesmerising performance.
She was in demand constantly throughout her career, and worked with some of the most accomplished directors the world over, including François Truffaut, Michelangelo Antonioni, Tony Richardson, Joseph Losey, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wim Wenders, François Ozon, Manoel de Oliveira, and Orson Welles, who considered her “the greatest actress in the world”. Throughout her career it was always the case that directors sought her out rather than the other way round. She was a fervent collaborator, giving of her best when encouraged and supported by directors such as Luis Buñuel, who she regarded as the father she never had (she also married William Friedkin in 1977, though their marriage only lasted for two years). Away from acting she was also a singer, and released several albums over the years. But her true love was acting, and at that she was simply inspirational, which makes the fact that she was never nominated for an Oscar all the more inexplicable. A true original, she leaves behind a body of work that will continue to reward viewers for decades more to come.
1 – Lift to the Scaffold (1958)
2 – The Lovers (1958)
3 – Seven Days… Seven Nights (1960)
4 – Jules et Jim (1962)
5 – Diary of a Chambermaid (1964)
6 – Viva Maria! (1965)
7 – The Bride Wore Black (1968)
8 – Querelle (1982)
9 – The Old Lady Who Walked in the Sea (1991)
10 – Time to Leave (2005)