Jeanne Moreau director: a retrospective in theaters reveals her, feminine and in tune with the times

Invisible for ages due to their poor condition, and freshly restored thanks to the Jeanne Moreau Foundation, its two fictions and a documentary – Light, The Teenager And Lillian Gish – will be released in cinemas from Wednesday 15 February. A (re)discovery, if not a revelation, where the love of cinema and the profession of actress transpires.


It was in 1976 that Jeanne Moreau decided to go behind the camera, after having started in the theater in 1947, then in the cinema in 1949. As with many first films, its subject is very close to the budding director. In Light, Jeanne Moreau talks about her job as an actress. She plays one of them at the peak of her career, while a second actress is chasing a new role, another is looking for the first, while a last has just hung up her gloves.

With Keith Carradine, Niels Arestrup, Bruno Ganz and Francis Huster, Light shows how much the profession of actor or actress blurs the limits between professional and private life, especially on the sentimental level. The film has aged a bit and we feel the director is still hesitant. But it is full of charm, smells of the times, and the subject is still current, with a touch of feminism, then in full swing.

“The Teenager”

In 1979, Jeanne Moreau demonstrated greater mastery in The Teenager. In 1939, Marie, 12 years old, spends her holidays like every year with her grandmother (Simone Signoret) in Auvergne. The arrival of a young doctor (Francis Huster) in the village makes her discover new feelings which guide her towards maturity, while the declaration of war is imminent.

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Adolescence is a marvelous film, where the summer light transfigures the image and where one feels the cut hay. The film recalls the marvelous The last holidays (1948) by Roger Leenhardt with a perfume by Jean Renoir. Jeanne Moreau is not in the cast, but we find Francis Huster, alongside a crisp Simone Signoret as a granny cake, Jacques Weber, Jean-François Balmer, Hugues Quester, Maurice Baquet and Michel Blanc. The Teenager is a beautiful nugget, solar, touching, with the revelation of an accomplished director.

“Lillian Gish”

The third and last film signed by Jeanne Moreau in 1983 is a documentary-portrait on the American silent star Lilliane Gish (1893-1993). A very nice interview punctuated with film excerpts like Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, The Broken Lily Or The two orphans. Daughter of an actress and an absent father, she found herself on stage in 1902 at the age of 8 and appeared in her first role on screen in 1912. She was associated with the cinema giant DW Griffith in some 45 films, and will turn in many others until 1987.

This latest production by Jeanne Moreau further confirms the actress’s passion for her art, paying homage to a pioneer who, also an actress, went on to direct. With Lillian Gish, she resurrects the Hollywood of the 1920s, with direct anecdotes told by the person who lived through them. Mary Pickford, Rudolph Valentino and his mentor DW Griffith then parade. Of unequaled beauty, Lillian Gish kept her very beautiful features at the age of 90, when she was filmed in 1983. She is fascinating and we want more, after the short, too short hour of the film. Rare.

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