June 27, 2008


Eve is one of the most beautiful films ever made- it is sensuously shot with a jazz score that is sumptuous and elegant. The movie moves slinkily through its scenes, along with its fabuluous female star, Jeanne Moreau, the definition of sixties French cinema and one of the icons of the last century. Jean-Luc Goddard once wrote in his journal that 'all you need for a movie is a girl and a gun', he was wrong- and Eva proves he was wrong, actually all you need for a movie is a girl, if the girl happens to be Jeanne Moreau. This is a story in which nothing much happens- a man, Tyvian Jones, who has just written a novel which has been adapted for a film, meets a woman, Eva, in Venice. He discards everything- wife, money, reputation- in order to make her his mistress and ultimately he fails to get anywhere with her. He falls in love with someone who cares nothing for him- and he is destroyed, turned from a proud potentate of luxury into a wrecked human being. It is such a simple premise- and one that so many great films have been made about- think the great film noirs: Out of the Past, Double Indemnity or Born to Kill.

What makes Eva extraordinary though is the simplicity of the plot- there are no thrills here, we have a femme fatale and nothing else, no murders, no crimes, no nothing- there is just the brutal examination of two people- a man and a woman and how their desire functions. Let us start by thinking about the man in this film. Played by Stanley Baker, Tyvian is a fop and a flop. He is a man without substance- we learn that he is duplicitous and unlikable, vain and thoughtless. He is guided by desire- he has never absorbed anything of meaning in his life, discards the feelings of others with a casualness born of a playboy outlook. By the end of the film he mutters religious analogies- beleiving that in some sense that women are more powerful than men, that Adam came out of Eve's rib, but that reveals his failure as a character rather than his perceptiveness as an observor. The reason that he falls a victim to Eve is not male weakness, but his own. Led by desires, we see by the end of the movie that all he desires is resistance to his desires. In truth, he desires not to have but to conquer, he desires the elation of conquest and thinks of the world as potential property. Because Eve resists his desire to make her his mistress, his property she becomes an object of fascination.

And what of her, what of Eve. A Salon reviewer said that she reminded a psychologist friend of his of classic cases of functional schizoids. There is definitely something amazing in the performance. Eve spends most of the film in absolute silence, Moreau just uses the amazing jazz score and her own body, not to mention some astounding camera work, to create the sense of Eve's allure. She is sexy, as sexy as the jazz music she listens to (jazz being as it is the most sexual of musical genres). She is a high class whore. But to be honest the ultimate sense I got from Eve was of emptiness, not of unhappiness or happiness, but of emptiness. What characterised her was a glittering boredom, this is decadence- the decadence of La Dolce Vita in Italy at the time but decadence worn thin. All Moreau can enjoy is twisting men, foppish idiots, round her finger. She takes no joy in human life. Her moods swing massively and her impulsiveness, her disorder is part of her allure- its what makes her the object that is not predictable, that cannot be owned. But also it is what makes her in part fundamentally empty. Does she care who is with her in every mood? No- she is so wrapped in an internal world, that prince or pauper, both are nothing to her. All she desires is money to fuel her jazz habit, the jazz that is the soundtrack to her life.

Between these two characters you see a massive battle develop- in truth it is no contest, neither in acting nor in character can the insipid Tryvian compete with the mesmeric Eve. But the contest is interesting as it opens up the emptiness of that kind of life- a life whose meaning is an endless circle of parties. In that sense Eve is the perfect counterpoint to Sex and the City- decadence lived creates a voracious desire after possession, a desire that can never be fulfilled.


Mikeachim said...

Oh no.
Yet another evidently unmissable film that I seem, so far, to have missed.

Oh well - since a midsummer's resolution (New Year's too far) is to watch all the classics as fast as possible (not on fast-forward, oh you know what I mean), the I shall add this one to the teetering pile (that also includes La Dolce Vita). Thanks.

Gracchi said...

Yes- its why I love the BFI- I get to see films like this that normally I wouldn't see. Its a really good film- Moreau is brilliant.