Monday, July 28, 2008

Jeanne Moreau in Bay of Angels

monday monologue

My friend Vern, alarmed at the absence of Jeanne Moreau from that favorite actresses list I concocted, quickly brought over a sizeable stack of Jeanne Moreau DVDs to brainwash me with. Does his wife know about this zealous obsession? He carried them over with a herniated disc. This is devotion to an actress!

Jeanne Moreau & Claude Mann in Bay of Angels (1963)

The first one we watched together was Jacques Demy's gambling romance Bay of Angels (1963). My only previous Demy experience was his 1964 musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourgh which sits comfortably among my favorite films of all time. Bay tells the story of a naive young Jean (Claude Mann) who goes gambling one day on a whim. He wins big and drops everything to vacation with his newfound riches. Jean soon meets Jackie (Moreau) a platinum blonde casino hopper and the two have a rollercoaster adventure filled with cash, casinos and hotels. They win and lose... and win and lose some more.

After one particularly big win, Jackie cajoles Jean into providing her with a magnificent suite and he questions her expensive taste and obsession with riches. Her response:
No. I don't like money. You see what I do with it when I have it. If I loved money I wouldn't squander it. Gambling attracts me by its stupid mixture of luxury and poverty.

And also the mystery of numbers... chance. I often wondered whether God ruled over numbers.

The first time I entered a casino I felt as if it was a church. I had the same emotion. Don't laugh. Try to understand. I tell you gambling has become my religion. Money means nothing to me. Nor this robe, this room. Nothing. I knew you wouldn't understand.

One chip is enough to make me happy.

One chip. That's both cold, chilling even, in its naked honesty and a charismatic deceit. Jackie isn't happy or free, despite her defensive mode about her rootless lifestyle. As a big fan of the 'women who lie to themselves' subgenre of movies, I found this Demy film a pretty thrilling sit. Jeanne Moreau has great facility for portraying enigmas (most famously in Jules & Jim, 1962) and she sure can seize hold of the camera while doing so. Jackie lives by and recognizes only her addiction but she's a nightmare of denials, and a mercurial creature of whim.

Add this one to your rental queues (netflix / greencine / blockbuster). At 79 minutes it offers a big return on investment. Would that more modern filmmakers would train their lens so tightly on characters and events in miniature and see what miracles can arise.

9 comments:

J.D. said...

Ooooooooh. I'm very intrigued.

*adds to Queue*

BeRightBack said...

She also adds an amazing amount of depth to her cameo in Ozon's Le Temps Qui Reste.

Murnau said...

Speaking of Moreau-just saw her in Welles' The Trial, she was absolutely fantastic as was the flick itself.

Only one more Welles movie and I've seen them all!

Anonymous said...

Magnificent movie. Did you see her first two movies with Louis Malle - Lift to the Scafold and Les Amants? Brilliant acting.

- cal roth

verninino said...

The most amazing thing about Moreau for me is that she made a career absorbing characters who live quite comfortably in the highlands between neurotic and psychotic; she could give a shit whether you sympathize with them or not. She's like the original Heath Ledger.

I understand from a few psych professionals that she is a case study for borderline personality disorder in Joseph Losey's EVA (my personal favorite).

Before getting married, I had a barrel of crazy exs. Evi's relieved that I get my fix of hysteria from Moreau. Speaking of which I had the DTs all weekend.

Darn, I forgot to offer you THE TRIAL. I inadvertently mixed that in with the Welles' stack.

She also has a brief cameo in 400 BLOWS.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

I know Julianne Moore is God, but really Jeanne Moreau is God (and Juli a very special angel). Bay of Angels is a very cool little film and she's terrific in it. Also Welles' The Trial is startling (probably the most underrated of his several underrated films), and Moreau as well as the breathtakingly gorgeous Romy Schneider are perfect in it.

Peter Nellhaus said...

Nathaniel: I recommend Tony Richardson's Mademoiselle for another look at Moreau.

I got to meet Michel Legrand, and tell him that I liked his score for Bay of Angels. I heard later that he was pleased that someone talked to him about something other than his Hollywood music.

NicksFlickPicks said...

Any chance you Jeanne Moreau fans know how/where to get a copy of The Sailor from Gibraltar?

The Guy on the Couch said...

You have some good points and made me rethink the film a little, but overall I thought it was a weak offering from both Moreau and Jacques Demy. Here's my review:
http://themoviecouch.blogspot.com/2010/01/bay-of-angels-la-baie-des-anges-1963.html

Otherwise, I'm happy to see someone else discovering Moreau.