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When people gave Louis Malle credit for making a star of Jeanne
Moreau in _Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (1958)_ (qv) immediately
followed by _Amants, Les (1959)_ (qv), he would point out that
Moreau by that time had already been "recognized as the prime stage
actress of her generation." She had made it to the Comedie
Française in her 20s. She had appeared in B-movie thrillers with
Jean Gabin and Ascenseur was in that genre. The technicians at the
film lab went to the producer after seeing the first week of
dailies for Ascenseur and said: "You must not let Malle destroy
Jeanne Moreau". Malle explained: "She was lit only by the windows
of the Champs Elysees. That had never been done. Cameramen would
have forced her to wear a lot of make-up and they would put a lot
of light on her, because, supposedly, her face was not photogenic".
This lack of artifice revealed Moreau's "essential qualities: she
could be almost ugly and then ten seconds later she would turn her
face and would be incredibly attractive. But she would be herself".
Moreau has told interviewers that the characters she played were
not her. But even the most famous film critic of his generation,
Roger Ebert, thinks that she is a lot like her most enduring role,
Catherine in François Truffaut's _Jules et Jim (1961)_ (qv). Behind
those eyes and that enigmatic smile is a woman with a mind. In a
review of _Clothes in the Wardrobe (1992) (TV)_ (qv) Ebert wrote:
"Jeanne Moreau has been a treasure of the movies for 35
years...Here, playing a flamboyant woman who nevertheless keeps her
real thoughts closely guarded, she brings about a final scene of
poetic justice as perfect as it is unexpected". Moreau made her
debut as a director in _Lumière (1976)_ (qv) -- also writing the
script and playing Sarah, an actress the same age as Moreau whose
romances are often with directors for the duration of making a
film. She made several films with Malle. Still active in
international cinema, Moreau presided over the jury of the 1995
Cannes Film Festival.
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