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French actress Jeanne Moreau dies at age 89

01 August 2017, 10:58 | Jermaine Blake

Late French actress Jeanne Moreau

Late French actress Jeanne Moreau

Unapologetic in her power both onscreen and off, Moreau was a fixture of the French cinema scene from the start of its most potent period.

She was born in Paris on January 23, 1928, to a French father and English mother who danced at the Folies-Bergere.

Jeanne Moreau, a woman who was described by Orson Welles as "the greatest actress in the world", has passed away at the age of 89.

Moreau quickly became a favorite of the filmmakers of the Nouvelle Vague (as the New Wave was known in France), working with great directors who knew uncannily well how to utilize her fearlessness, her emotive features, and the deep wellspring of haunted, haunting femininity that set her apart from her peers.

Other major roles for Jeanne in her nearly 70-year career were 1958's "Ascenseur Pour L'échafaud" ('Elevator to the Gallows"), 1968's "La Mariée était en Noir" ('The Bride Wore Black"), 1961's "La Notte", 1979's "L'adolescente' and 1965's "Viva Maria!' for which she won a BAFTA for Best Foreign Actress. Such accolades regularly made their way to the exacting star, who also won several awards in her lifetime-including the César, the French equivalent of an Oscar, for her performance in 1991's The Old Lady Who Walked in the Sea. And Moreau's Catherine is very much the template for that cultural archetype once called a "free spirit" and now referenced as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl: a contradictory (and possibly imaginary) object of love and lust, a figure codified by men but breathed into life, in this case, by an actress with sensuous eyes and a tragic mouth.

"Most people feel acting is pretending, but for me it is not that", she'd said to me in the Post interview.

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Outspoken and politically active, Moreau starred in more than 100 films, recorded albums and worked well into her 80s.

Moreau's cool beauty and intellectual sexuality made her an ideal match for the Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, who followed his sensational "L'Avventura" with this challenging story of a strained marriage, told over the course of a day in which a couple (played by Moreau and Marcello Mastroianni) consider their unhappiness, contemplate affairs and generally wallow in ennui. She also appeared in the Hollywood films The Train with Burt Lancaster and The Last Tycoon with Robert de Niro, Tony Curtis, and Robert Mitchum.

After starting her career on the stage, Moreau went on to star in a number of French films in the 1950s and 60s.

She had a busy career before Jules et Jim pushed her towards an elevated level of celebrity. Just back in my room, I phoned my director.

Her image on the sleeve of Miles Davis's soundtrack LP to that film secured her a permanent place in jazz iconography. "Nine years of bad films - it was a cinematic adolescence", she said in 1965.

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