Fleeting as it is, beauty and bravery leave its mark and can change everything.

“You don’t have to be a wreck. You don’t have to be sick. One’s aim in life should be to die in good health. Just like a candle that burns out.
Success is like a liberation or the first phrase of a love story.
When you live under the power of terror and segregation, you can’t ever start a work of art”.

Jeanne Moreau . 23rd January 1928 – July 31st 2017.

Today, two great artists left this earthly plane. The last of the American cowboys, Sam Shepard and Jeanne Moreau, the iconic, beautiful, bold and mould breaking actress of the new wave French Cinema of the 60’s.

Jeanne had been born in Paris, just a decade or so before World War II. Her Father, Anatole, owned a restaurant and her Mother, Kathleen, a cabaret dancer, was English.  Her mother Kathleen would leave her husband and eldest child to return to England in 1939. Jeanne’s younger sister would leave with her, but Jeanne remained  and had to endure the rage and tyranny of her Father who it seems had a brutal nature.

Jeanne was drawn to theatrical drama and inspired by the thespian scene in Paris. At the tender age of fifteen she saw the play “”Antigone”  and decided to become an actress.  Against her Fathers wishes, she joined the “Conservatoire National d’Art Dramatique” in Paris and set about learning the basics of her craft. By the time she was twenty she was a full time member of the “Comedie Francaise” and by twenty four had moved to the “Theatre National Populaire”.  Her first real acting job paid her the princely sum of $300 for her role in the  film “Last Love” but the real break came when she was cast in Louis Malle’s” Elevator to the Gallows”. Her brooding good looks and sensuality had struck Malle and he cast her in the role of a woman seeking sexual equality in the groundbreaking film “The Lovers” . She and Malle had became real life lovers and together they would inspire filmgoers and critics alike around the globe.

Jeanne was already in her  thirties by the time I was born and I didn’t discover her work until I was in my late teens.  I had by this time also discovered french literature and had been startled by Jean Paul Sartre’s trilogy “Roads to Freedom”. His existential love affair with Simone de Beauvoir fascinated me. The French Female Psyche was so far removed from anything I had ever known. . The writings of Colette and Anais Nin followed and  took my breath away . Their writing was a true awakening for me, the language they used,  seductive and empowering was liberating.   Having grown up in Ireland, catholic and convent educated, my idea of my own role as a woman in the world, while not altogether submissive, was nothing like these woman. They were outliers to me, exotic and mysterious, but somehow familiar.   Their books would never have been suggested reading in my world and would have been considered at best scandalous and at worst perverse.   So, while my friends were worshipping Madonna, and talking “Desperately Seeking Susan” I was going to film noir events or swooning over Romy Schneider and Alain Delon in “La Piscine..

In fact I would never have met my husband if it were not for film noir.  His opening line to me was “Those glasses your wearing remind me of “Lena Wortmeiler” not a particular favourite of mine, but it made me take a second look at him.

So, on seeing the obituary today for Jeanne, I was happy she had a long and fulfilled life . I have to thank her for being one of those glorious luminous females who showed me you could be a woman,  demanding equality, without being labelled a harlot or a harridan, to be totally whole in all areas of your life without having to feel afraid of your intelligence, independence, sexuality or your idiosyncrasies …  Sweet Dreams Jeanne Moreau.

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Romy and Alain ..

 

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