Jeanne Moreau, a legend of French cinema and one of the French New Wave’s leading actresses with roles in Jules & Jim and Elevator to the Gallows, died this weekend at the age of 89.
French authorities confirmed that the actress died at her Paris home; no cause of death was revealed, the BBC reports.
French president Emmanuel Macron tweeted of Moreau, “A legend of cinema and theater … an actress engaged in the whirlwind of life with an absolute freedom.”
Pierre Lescure, president of the Cannes Film Festival, said in a statement, “She was strong and she didn’t like to see people pour their hearts out. Sorry, Jeanne, but this is beyond us. We are crying.”
Over a seven-decade career, Moreau worked with seminal filmmakers like Francois Truffaut (Jules & Jim), Luis Bunuel (Diary of a Chambermaid), Michelangelo Antonioni (La Notte), Orson Welles (The Trial), Elia Kazan (The Last Tycoon), Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wim Wenders, Theo Angelopoulos and Louis Malle.
After Moreau spent nearly a decade playing bit parts, it was Malle who is credited with turning her into a star thanks to leading roles in a pair of his 1958 films: The Lovers, a controversial film – it spawned a landmark obscenity trial in the U.S. – where the actress portrayed an adulterous woman, and film noir Elevator to the Gallows, with Moreau in the femme fatale role.
In 1960, Moreau was named Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for Peter Brook’s Seven Days… Seven Nights. Now cemented as an international arthouse star, Moreau’s magnetic presence and raspy voice featured in Roger Vadim’s Dangerous Liaisons and Antonioni’s La Notte before she appeared in what’s perhaps her most iconic role: Catherine in Truffaut’s 1962 French New Wave classic Jules & Jim, with the actress in the middle of a love triangle between the titular characters.
The Jules & Jim role earned Moreau a French Grand Prix award as well as a BAFTA Award nomination for Best Foreign Actress. That same year, Moreau made her English-language film debut with Orson Welles’ adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Trial, the first of the three films she worked on with the director who called her the “greatest actress in the world”; Chimes of Midnight and The Immortal Story followed.
Over the ensuing decades, rather than becoming a box office star, Moreau opted for challenging roles with influential directors like Fassbinder, Bunuel, Luc Besson and Francois Ozon. However, she notably turned down the part of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, opting instead to reunite with Truffaut for the Hitchcock homage The Bride Wore Black.
In addition to acting, Moreau also directed a pair of films, 1976’s Lumiere and 1979’s L’Adolescente, as well as a documentary on silent film star Lillian Gish.
Although Moreau never received an Academy Award nomination for her work, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored the actress with its Lifetime Achievement award in 1998.
“France has lost a national treasure, as have we all. Her spirit will live forever,” director William Friedkin, Moreau’s ex-husband, tweeted Monday morning. “Au revoir Jeanne.”
Légende du cinéma et du théâtre, Jeanne Moreau fut une artiste engagée dans le tourbillon de la vie avec une liberté absolue.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) July 31, 2017
We’re saddened to learn that Jeanne Moreau has passed away. Moreau received a BAFTA Fellowship in 1996 honouring her remarkable career pic.twitter.com/QtxDHGtXen
— BAFTA (@BAFTA) July 31, 2017