One of the irritations of modern Internet culture is the haphazard way the word “iconic” is thrown around, basically as an all-purpose synonym for “cool” or “thing I like.” The word itself means much more than that, derived as it is from a word related to imagery of religious figures. In other words, you should only be using “iconic” if you’re talking about someone akin to Jesus. So it is with that knowledge that we must sadly report the death of iconic French film actress Jeanne Moreau.
She first gained fame as a Parisian stage actress, starring in acclaimed productions of The Dazzling Hour, Pygmalion, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Her first few films rarely matched her considerable gifts, but she finally broke through as a full-blown movie star in Louis Malle’s 1958 thriller Elevator to the Gallows, an international sensation. She would subsequently work with Francois Truffaut (Jules and Jim, The Bride Wore Black), Michelangelo Antonioni (La note), Luis Buñuel (Diary of a Chambermaid), Roger Vadim (Les Liaisons dangereuses), Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Querelle), Elia Kazan (The Last Tycoon), and Orson Welles (The Trial, Chimes at Midnight).
She cultivated a persona (mysterious beauty, fierce intelligence, and sexual independence) appropriate to the French New Wave movement she helped launch, and continued to refine it over the course of her fruitful career. And she continued to work well into her golden years, with the last of her 145 credits, Le talent de mes amis, hitting French theaters in 2015.
Moreau was 89.