Mad About Paris, Much more than a guide
The other day I had tea with Jeanne Moreau. You are probably thinking, I’m kidding. But I’m not. Believe me. I’m just the lucky one who, from time to time, has to interview for work somebody others would die for to meet.
Photo © Anne-Christine Poujoulat, AFP
Usually I don’t get excited about meeting stars. But this time I did. I mean: it’s Jeanne Moreau. Not only a world-famous actress. She is a myth. Not only in France. Remember “Jules & Jim” or “Elevator to the Gallows”. If you’ve never seen these movies, quick, go and rent them!
But I’ll help you to be a bit less envious. Yes, I had tea, wonderful Chinese Oolong, Tieh Kwan Yin, in a very French place called “Mariages Frères” in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, close to where Jeanne lives. But I was waiting a long time. Waiting and waiting. In vain. After half an hour, the waiter, beautifully dressed in a white linen suit, a throw-back to colonial France, told me that Mademoiselle Moreau, usually, is always on time. I spent another half an hour waiting. This was only being polite, I thought; after all, she might, for once, be late. But Jeanne never showed up.
Jeanne Moreau forgot our rendezvous. She is 82 after all. When I think about what I forget, I forgive her easily. Jeanne was desperately sorry, proposed another date and was, for the second one, already sitting there, looking fresh as a late spring flower.
There she was. The real Jeanne. Still so beautiful. Still taking care of her appearance, her hair, her nails, everything was perfect. It’s not because she is aware of being the incarnation of the French woman. It’s just education, politeness, conviction: Don’t bother anyone with your appearance, be as delightful as you can be. And age is not an excuse.
Was it hard for her, I asked Jeanne, that people disliked the free, sexy women characters she often played? “Disliked is the wrong word”, Jeanne replied, “they called me a whore. That’s the way it was when a young, attractive woman had lovers and acted in films where she was sexy. To avoid getting that reputation, I’d have had to have the radiant beauty of Brigitte Bardot. She was like the sun. Nobody would have called her a whore. Me, I represented a darker, lunar beauty.“
Does it bother her, I asked, being seen, not as a person, but as myth? “You know”, she replied, “at the end of the day you’re all alone by yourself. With your body, with your inner life. The way people look at you is one thing. The way you look at yourself is another. And I look at myself almost with curiosity.”
She said all of this with her gravelly voice, made deeper by cigarettes, thoughts and tristesse.
She might be melancholic, but what motivated her throughout her life was passion. She is still working and will never stop, she told me. Then she talked about cooking dinner for friends, about her terrace full of roses and how she takes care of them. I went away with the feeling that I had just left an old friend. And I know now that I definitely prefer the melancholic beauty to the sunny one.