Jeanne Moreau, the French actress and star of the New Wave, passed away today at the age of 89 in her home in Paris. France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, confirmed the news with a statement, saying: “We could say about Jeanne Moreau that a part of cinema legend is gone.”
The “legend” part is not an exaggeration. Moreau's performance in the 1962 film Jules et Jim earned her international stardom. Some of her most memorable features include Luis Buñuel’s Diary of a Chambermaid (1962) and Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Night (1961). She’s been deemed the femme fatale of French cinema for her roles as the bored wife who seeks an orgasm in Les Amants (1958) and the widowed woman who seeks revenge on five men in La Mariée Était en Noir (1968). The press attributed her fatale aesthetic to the dark circles under her eyes, which, to many, made her less photogenic.
It’s an impressive repertoire of roles, no doubt, and the actress’ on-screen prowess extended to her cinematic style. Let’s take Great Catherine (1968), for example, in which she wore a bejeweled tiara with a fur-lined dress; or her little black dress with a pearl necklace and earrings in Les Amants (1958); or the long-sleeved white-and-light-blue dress with thick gold pendant she donned while starring alongside Brigitte Bardot in the costume design spectacle Viva Maria! (1965).
But Moreau’s ties to fashion extend beyond what she wore on the silver screen. The actress, who has been credited with paving the way for the likes of Catherine Deneuve and Marion Cotillard, collaborated with Coco Chanel and Hubert de Givenchy, and was romantically involved with legendary designer Pierre Cardin.
“She had in her eye a sparkle that deflected deference and inspired insolence, freedom, the turbulence of life that she liked so much and that she will long make us like,” added Macron in his statement. Indeed, Moreau was a true arbiter of French style, but she was also staunchly herself and dared to be three-dimensional at a time when actresses were largely expected to be no more than pretty faces. For that, and for the many characters she gave us, she will be missed.