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Film Series Review—“Jeanne Moreau, Cinéaste” at Film Forum

Jeanne Moreau, Cinéaste
Through March 23, 2023
Film Forum
209 West Houston Street, Manhattan
The series Jeanne Moreau, Actrice, at Film Forum for the past two weeks, was a superb reminder of how seminal Moreau was onscreen, playing so many memorable roles in films by Francois Truffaut (Jules and Jim), Luis Bunuel (Diary of a Chambermaid), Louis Malle (The Lovers, Elevator to the Gallows), and Michelangelo Antonioni (La Notte). 
The quintessential French woman onscreen, Moreau was sophisticated and sensible, intelligent and sensual. But her brilliance wasn’t relegated to merely acting, as Film Forum’s current series, Jeanne Moreau, Cineaste, collects the trio of films she directed between 1976 and 1984 to give viewers the opportunity to watch her develop her own directorial voice.
The three films are features Lumière (1976) and The Adolescent (1979) as well as a documentary, Lillian Gish (1984). Her first film, Lumière, stars Moreau as a middle-aged actress relaxing at her rural estate with three good friends, also actresses. Gentle and modest, the film at times is too casual in its observation of the intersecting relationships and attendant rivalries, affections and jealousies. But Moreau, thanks to excellent acting from her quartet and the judicious use of flashbacks, creates an insinuating portrait of the complications of womanhood.
The Adolescent
The same could be said for The Adolescent, another low-key character study about complex female relationships. The protagonist, Marie, is a 13-year-old who spends the summer of 1939 with her parents at her beloved grandmother’s home in a rural village. Moreau the writer and director sympathetically shows Marie’s childish nature, budding sexuality and the growing rift between her father and mother—who soon begins an affair with the local doctor, whom Marie also has an unrequited crush on. Although the great Simone Signoret is the grandmother, the astonishing young actress Laetitia Chauveau is rightly the focus of Moreau’s camera throughout.
Lillian Gish
Moreau’s interview with a movie legend makes up the entire running time of Lillian Gish, a touching portrait of old Hollywood that also includes clips from Gish’s silent-film career—including D.W. Griffith’s early epics Birth of a Nation and Intolerance. Moreau’s warmth and Gish’s very presence make this a nice hour of nostalgia for film buffs.

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