Jeanne Moreau makes her debut as a writer-director in "Lumiere," now at the Inner Circle, by inviting the audience to feel like voyeurs at a celebrity retreat. The Peeping Tom effect is especially pronounced at the outset.
In the first sequence the camera stations us behind some shrubbery on a promontory overlooking a swimming pooL, where four women, later revealed to be actress friends, playfully splash, chatter and sing in the twilight.
Next we're on a veranda with out nose pressed against a series of French doors as the feminine bonhomie cotinues in tantalizing pantomime indoors.
Moreau commits an irreversible tactical blunder by finally bringing us close enough to hear what her characters are talking and allegedly agaonizing about. If "Lumiere" were a satire about show business celebrity and celebrity-worship, this letdown might have a point. Instead it underlines the thematic triviality and obliviousness of the entire movie.
Like Barbra Streisand in "A Star Is Born," Moreau seems to have mistaken an exercise in vanity for a work of prodound and searing emotional revelation. "Lumiere" is revealing, all right, but not in ways that flatter Moreau's platitudinous conceptions of stresses in general and herself in particular.
"Lumiere" must owe more to the languishing self-pitying "women's pictures" of a generation or more ago than to the facts of Moreau's own [WORD ILLEGIBLE] and private life. At least one lapes so.
The Jeanne Moreau of "Lumiere" seems to be kidding herself as humorlessly as the Liv Ullmann of "Changing." Moreau also turns to the gospels according to Ingmar Bergman when she wants to sound profound. When she wants to sound profound. She quotes the prologue of "Hour of the Wolf" to her newest admirer, a German literary lion played by the morose Bruno Ganz of "The Marquise of O."
Her recitation seems to turn him on, althoug it's difficult to believe that anything would turn Ganz on. "You're the woman for me," he says solemnly. "And I'm the man for you. Let's go back and get some sleep."
Moreau insists on pretending such interludes are deeply affecting, which naturally enhances their unintentional hilarity. What could be more embarrassing than starring yourself as a paragon of your sex and profession?The complacent self-image Moreau embodies, rather dumpily, in "Lumiere" would look silly on any actress, but it's funnier on her because gloom and dissatisfaction used to be her trademarks.
"Lumiere" is one in the eye for anyone who believed the actress in "The Lovers," "Jules and Jim," "Bay of the Angels," "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" and "La Notte" had consolidated some brave new sensibility.
Moreau's intention in "Lumiere" was evidently a story interweaving the lives of four women - Moreau herself as a celebrated actress at the peak of her career, Lucia Bose as a friend who abandoned her career for marriage and motherhood, and Francine Racette and Caroline Cellier as ambitious young actresses - but the introductory threads are never adequately manipulated or extended.
Moreau doesn't realize how egocentric her conception is, how systematically the material is loaded to reflect sympathy and glory on her character, named Sarah Dedieu, a name full of hubris if there ever was one.
The relationship between Sarah and the young actresses is tenuous to the point of non-existence. By contrast she patronizes her contemporary, the Bose character, to a fare-thee-well. Moreau makes Sarah a compulsive stroker and clutcher and leaner, she's fond of playing with a friend's hair or resting a flaccid chin on a friendly shoulder. As her olest and dearest chum, Bose endures the largest share of this condescending solicitude.
It's conceivable that the sequences involving Racette, whose beauty and high-strung temperament do enliven the movie in fits and starts, and Cellier, a washout, were meant to recapitulate the youthful careers of the older women. If so, the intention remanins intriguing but unrealized.
Invariably, attention is directed back to gracious, adorned, understanding Sarah. Moreau has even repeated the Streisand ploy of monopolizing the sympathy after a man who adores her commits suicide. If anything, she goes Streisand once better: Sarah was cavorting with another suitor while the suicide was in progress yet still seems to think of herself as the devastated party.
The most amusing thing about Sarah's suitors is that they tend to be morose. This is one area in which Moreau may have revealed something significant that she never meant to. Is it possible that her screen persona was basically appealing to men disposed to get pretentiously down in the dumps?
My eyes may have decived me, but I though I detected at least a fleeting resemblace between William Friedkin, who recently married Moreau, and the actor cast as Thomas, a young assistant director madly in love with Sarah.
At the level of unconscious confession, "Lumiere" is worth an occasional giggle, but Moreau's conscious apprehension of her innermost being is sheer cotton candy.