Existential Walks

September 5, 2008

It is a well known fact that Jeanne Moreau’s role (as Florence) in Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows catapulted her to the center of the French New Wave which was then just beginning to take formal shape. But her adulterous character in Malle’s film was strangely epidermal, never quite revealing the emotional undercurrents that motivated her nocturnal meanderings in the streets of Paris. Was it love or desperation that was the genesis of her famous walk, where she roamed the Parisian neighbourhood searching for her mon amour?

With Miles Davis playing in the background and Henri Decaë’s Parisian bokeh and a forlorn Moreau at front, this is the moment when Moreau awoke tingling sensations within the French audience of that time (and still does), effectively making her the leading figure in many films of the New Wave.

Sadly, a similar sequence with Corinne Marchand in Agnes Varda’s Cléo de 5 à 7 did little to the actress in terms of gaining recognition, while Varda herself was being overshadowed by the dominant male filmmakers of her time (in my eyes, Cléo de 5 à 7 is just as good, if not better than Godard’s À bout de souffle). Marchand’s Cleo is undergoing a crisis worse than that of Florence. She’s waiting for a medical test result that would decide her fate – whether she dies from illness or goes on to live. Her existential crisis is deeply felt from this walk (again in Paris), where she really observes the city and its people for the first time.

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