February 11, 2000 12:14pm
Berlin Honors Moreau, Icon of Subtle Sensuality
by: Mark John
(BERLIN) -- Jeanne Moreau, the French actress whose portrayals of libido-charged femmes fatales scandalized 1950s audiences, was honored at the Berlin Film Festival on Friday for a lifetime of achievement in cinema.
While Brigitte Bardot eclipsed her as an out-and-out sex symbol, Moreau's husky voice and her mouth permanently set halfway between a pout and a snarl, produced a sensual effect many found far more disconcerting.
``I told (Spanish film director) Luis Bunuel he was like a father to me,'' she told a news conference. ``He said, 'God, that would be horrible, I would have to lock you in a closet so that nobody could get at you'.''
Now 71, Moreau has emerged as an inspirational elder figure in European cinema, promoting work by young directors and continuing to work as an actress and director herself.
But she is best remembered for a string of French ``New Wave'' films through the 1950s and 1960s judged immoral by some and lauded by others as profound and honest representations of the force of passion.
Role Dismayed Church
After starring in Louis Malle's erotically charged classic ''Les Amants'' (The Lovers) in 1958, she was attacked by the church of producing an unashamed pamphlet for free love. The film was subject to heavy censorship in Germany.
Performances as a high-class call girl in the 1962 film Eva and as a village schoolteacher who falls prey to sexual obsession in 1965's ``Mademoiselle,'' cemented her reputation as an amoral screen temptress.
But she was already demonstrating the breadth of her talent in other films, notably in Malle's ``Jules et Jim'' (Jules and Jim) in 1962 in which she brought a philosophical touch to the portrayal of a woman determined to invent a new idea of what happiness can be.
Born in Paris in 1928, the daughter of an English dancer and French barman, Moreau became at 20 the youngest full-time member ever of the Comedie Francaise. She left to enter the world of film after four years, finding the French national theater too authoritarian.
``When I see my old films now I see a young woman and it reminds me of how I was and that I am grown up now and haven't done too badly,'' she said simply when asked to reflect on her career.
``Am I a living legend? I am alive, let's just say that.''