Iconic actress Jeanne Moreau
’s death this week at 89 received muted American coverage, with remembrances that hardly captured Moreau
’s essential presence and influence in world cinema. Overshadowed by the passing of Sam Shepard
the day before (more contemporary, American, prominent in multiple fields, and younger), she received back-page obituaries in major papers. Her lack of any Oscar nominations, or a deserved honorary award, didn’t help the cause.
Even more unfortunate is the treatment of her death reflects American audiences’ ever-increasing disinterest in French-language film. Jeanne Moreau
is significant for her transcendent artistry and the directors with whom she worked, but she also represented the iconic qualities of her country’s cinema.
Though the boom in “art houses” (a term popularized in the late 1940s) came more from Italian films (“Rome, Open City,” “Shoe Shine,” and particularly “Bicycle Thief”), French film became a steady part of the subtitled market by the mid-1950s.