Wednesday, 24 July 2013


No one could smoke a cigarette like Jeanne Moreau!

During his self imposed professional exile in Britain Joseph Losey made some truly great films and was one of the few ‘foreign’ directors to receive serious critical attention. One of the not so quite so well known films made during the 1960’s, his most fruitful period, was the European art film Eva (1962)[1] which consisted of a very cosmopolitan cast and crew. It was made in Italy, based on a novel of the same name by English writer James Hadley Chase, directed by an American with French producers and starred French, British and Italian actors. 

A Welsh novelist Tyvian Jones, played by a very intense Stanley Baker, has a best selling novel which has been adapted into a well received movie, a house in Venice and a flat in Rome and a beautiful Italian fiancée Francesca Ferrara, the award winning actress Virna Lisa best known for her award winning part in La Reine Margot (1994). But all is not well, his film director is also in love with Francesca and is having the Welshman investigated hoping to find something that will discredit him in the eyes of wife-to-be. In the mean time Tyvian is tasked with writing another story hopefully to be adapted into a further hit movie. To this end he goes to his secluded house on an island near Venice. Arriving there late at night he finds that two people have broken in and have made themselves at home. The man is ejected but when he finds the second person, a woman, naked in his bath he allows her to stay. Attempting to seduce her she knocks him out with an ashtray and it’s this bump on the head that begins his dangerous fixation with Eva Oliver.

Moreau with Stanley Baker.

French actress Jeanne Moreau (Lift to the Scaffold (1958) Querelle (1982)) plays the femme fatale Eva an emotionless seductress ‘who never gives herself, only sells herself,’[2] simply interested in what she can get out of the men she seduces, a sort of high class call girl without the obligatory pimp.  The affair between the novelist and the money grabbing Eva starts as an infatuation but turns into an obsession which completely turns Tyvian’s world upside down humiliating him in front of friends and colleagues and leading to a terrible tragedy. 

Made in black and white on location in Italy in the winter months with no visible sign of tourists anywhere. It’s typical 1960’s art house film noir with long flowing camera shots from cinematographer Gianni Di Venanzo and its requisite monochrome atmospherics with unlikable characters that barely break a smile. Baker gives his normal fraught performance, but to be fair no one can smoke a cigarette or say a line like ‘bloody Welshman’ quite like Ms Moreau and it’s soundtrack does include Billie Holiday!   

The beautiful Virna Lisi.

[1] Originally, this subject was offered by the Hakim brothers, who produced it, to Jean-Luc Godard to direct. Godard was anxious to sign Richard Burton for the leading role, but failed and then dropped out of the project. The Hakims instead obtained the services of another Welsh actor, Stanley Baker, who insisted on them hiring his friend Joseph Losey to direct. (IMDb Trivia)

[2] Quote from the Film’s Trailer. 

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