As a star, a woman, and a national figure, Jeanne Moreau exemplifies the ideal of the French film actress in the post-New Wave era. Though overshadowed in the popular press by such stars as Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve, both of whom served as the model for Marianne, the official statue that represents France, Moreau, through her image as well as her position in the French film industry, embodied French femininity for a generation of film lovers. She personified the intelligent actress whose dark, mature, and potentially dangerous sensuality stood in stark contrast to the blonde sex kitten that dominated Hollywood screens. Moreau was considered un-photogenic, a jolie laide, whose personal magnetism and speaking voice overshadowed her features.
Her early background in theater lent credibility to her career in cinema, which began in 1948 and which includes over one hundred films. Her roles in films associated with the New Wave, such as Ascenseur pour l'echafaud (Elevator to the Gallows, 1958) and Les Amants (The Lovers, 1958), both directed by Louis Malle, gave her international prominence. Her portrayal of Catherine in Jules et Jim (Jules and Jim, 1962), directed by François Truffaut, New Wave director par excellence, solidified her star image. International films, including Michelangelo Antonioni's La Notte (The Night, 1961), Orson Welles's Une Histoire immortelle (The Immortal Story, 1968), Anthony Asquith's The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964), and Carlo Diegues's Joanna Francesa (1973), also have featured prominently in her career.
Moreau took a substantial risk in choosing to work with young, relatively unknown directors in the late 1950s and the 1960s. Throughout her career, she made choices that reflected her sense of cinema as an art and, as a result, she is universally respected for her professionalism and commitment. In addition to awards for specific roles (Cannes, 1960; Académie du cinéma, 1962; Célsar, 1990), she has received lifetime tributes from the Cannes Film Festival (1992), the Venice Film Festival (Golden Lion, 1992), and the American Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (1998).
Moreau has been involved in all aspects of French cinema. She was twice Preésidente of the Jury at the Cannes Festival, and in 1993, she was appointed Preésidente of the Commission d'Avances sur Recettes, a body of experts that advises the Centre National de la Cineématographie. She has also supported Equinox, an organization she created in 1993 that holds annual workshops for new scriptwriters. Moreau has directed two films herself, Lumiere (1976), a portrait of four film actresses, and L'Adolescente (The Adolescent, 1979), the evocation of a visit by a girl to her grandparents in Avignon on the eve of World War II. Moreau was elected a member of the Academy of Beaux Arts in 2001.
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