Wednesday, August 9, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Farewell Sam Shepard and Jeanne Moreau

Jeanne Moreau — the “greatest actress in the world,” declared Orson Welles.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Farewell To Sam Shepard and Jeanne Moreau

“I SHALL die very young. Maybe seventy.  Maybe eighty. Maybe ninety. But I shall be very young,” said Jeanne Moreau.
ABOUT a year ago, I happened upon one of Jeanne Moreau’s last feature films, 2012’s “A Lady in Paris.”  She plays a sharp-tongued old lady of some wealth and possibly fame of a sort in her youth — an actress perhaps?  The script is vague and troublesome.  A younger woman (Laine Magi) cares for, and tries to cope with the cranky, wealthy diva. 
Jeanne Moreau with Laine Magi in “A Lady in Paris.”
That’s about it.  I can’t even recall the resolution of the movie.  What struck me was how resistant to time was Jeanne Moreau’s earthy luminosity.  Her greatness, her presence, was still as vital as when she reigned onstage at the Comedie Francaise, or as it was in the films that initially brought her international fame — “The Lovers” ... “Elevator to the Gallows”… ... ”Les liaisons dangereuses” ... ”La Notte” ... “Bay of Angels” ... “Diary of a Chambermaid” ... “Jules and Jim.”  (And although hardly a great film, 1965’s hugely entertaining “Viva, Maria” which paired her with Brigitte Bardot.) 
Jeanne Moreau and Brigitte Bardot in “Viva, Maria,” 1965.
Jeanne Moreau and Brigitte Bardot recording the songs of “Viva, Maria."
She was, by the way, in “A Lady in Paris,” still young.

Moreau had about 140 acting credits. She was directed by almost everyone who mattered, including Orson Welles, who declared her the “greatest actress in the world.”   She sang, she directed, she had grand affairs, marriages, tragedy (her son almost killed in a horrible car crash) and the worshipful respect of the European and American film industries.
Her provocative, beautiful/not beautiful face was an iconic symbol of a woman confronting her maturity onscreen, aging as she worked relentlessly, but becoming no less fascinating. Indeed, like Simone Signoret, Moreau was even more attractive showing her signs of living, loving, suffering and enjoying her life and her work. Her art, an ability to inhabit fully and dominate the screen, was a gift she never lost.
Moreau died last week at the age of 89. She had lived well, but France went into mourning. Her ex-husband, director William Friedkin said, “France has lost a national treasure.”  I would go further.  The entire world of cinema is less because she is gone, but so much richer for her having been here.  Au revoir, Miss Moreau. 

Tonight I will find, among my many scattered DVD’s Francois Truffaut’s tale of revenge “The Bride Wore Black.”  And somewhere, I am sure Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman are toasting you as well. 
Shepard at the age of 21.
AMERICA also lost a great artist, when playwright/actor Sam Shepard left last week at age 73. 

Like Moreau in France, Shepard inhabited the American landscape, in theater and in films.  Although his playwriting career began in earnest in 1975, with his “Family Trilogy” — of these, “Buried Child” would win a Pulitzer Prize — his writing and his performing seemed both contemporary and classic; had there ever been a time when there wasn’t Sam Shepard?  

He was so inescapably and iconically American — a poet, a cowboy, a truth seeker, a builder and destroyer of myths.  He was tumultuous and intensely private. (Thirty years and two children with the wonderful Jessica Lange, with nary a word about it, from either of them.)  His best work (“True West,” “Fool for Love,” “A Lie in the Mind,”) struck nerves audiences didn’t think they had — or wanted to have! 

As an actor (Oscar nominee for “The Right Stuff”) his presence was electric, invigorating and often oddly comforting — granite wrapped in fine linen.  I saw him last in Netflix’s compelling hot mess, “Bloodline.”  He was ... Sam Shepard.  He was great.  He will be deeply missed.
ENDTHOUGHT:  Imagine this.  Hillary Clinton won the election.  She is president. Within her first 200 days, 26 marines and sailors have been killed in three separate accidents — a plane crash in rural Mississippi ... a U.S. warship colliding with a merchant vessel off the coast of Japan ... another plane mishap near Australia.  Along with the loss of human life, the cost of repairing the warship — the USS Fitzgerald — is estimated between $200 and $500 million. 

Now, imagine private citizen Donald Trump, tweeting from his gold-inlaid Trump Tower.  Why isn’t President Clinton investigating these accidents — if indeed they are accidents? (He’s been chatting with Alex Jones.)  Where is her remorse?  Is she attending any funerals?  Why has she not made the safety of our troops a top priority?  How can we know if that repair money will really go toward the battered carrier?  She is a disgrace.  She should be impeached.  Oh, and Obama is to blame as well, somehow.

Reality — Donald Trump is president.  He has attended no funerals.  He has launched no investigations.  He has shown no remorse.  He tweets about his popularity, his poll numbers, his “strong base,” members of his staff who won’t, as they say on “Game of Thrones” — “bend the knee.” We get his fake news take and old scandals involving Democrats. New scandals involving him are hoaxes. Oh, and no president has been treated so badly as he — not even the one he still believes was born in Kenya. 

The ancient, famous — although possibly apocryphal — Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times” has never ever been more apt.
NOTE to our readers.  Although the weather is not lovely, summer plans were put in place and we can’t control the elements.  We will be off for a few days, back on Monday, August 14th.

Stay cool, stay dry, and, like Miss Moreau, stay young. 
Contact Liz here.