The camera surveys the room, pausing for a second on the beaded blouses and satin lapels waiting patiently (or not so patiently) in line for tortellini, the waitresses proffering silver trays of champagne glasses, the salmon-marble columns of the Regent hotel, and finally stops on the figure gliding down the staircase. Jeanne Moreau enters. Her pink sequined tunic flickers. Extras flock toward her.
"Might I come up and address you?" a woman asks Moreau, leaning hesitantly toward the French actress, the star of Truffaut's "Jules and Jim," the legendary beauty. "I've been a fan of yours for 20 years. Oh, very much so. Oh, sincerely."
A British-accented couple stands still. They are supposed to be moving. They are supposed to be moving toward the tortellini, but the line is frozen as the more aggressive of the 300 guests ignore its presence, walk directly toward the food and shove their way past the genteel.
They look toward the tortellini. The camera looks toward the tortellini. The tortellini looks good to the couple and to the camera.
"It's not England, dear," the woman says. "No queues."
They continue to wait.
"The mythology is really American," says Moreau, as she explains why she will direct a series of seven movies about American actresses to be broadcast on television, starting with one on Lillian Gish. "Why does everyone say such wonderful things about Hollywood? Why does everyone say such dreadful things about Hollywood? Because everyone wants to be there."
And everyone wants to be in front of the cameras in Washington, if not Hollywood. Smiling people cluster around Moreau, telling her they loved the Gish film, which has just premiered on this Tuesday night at the American Film Institute for AFI financial supporters. They ask for a picture. They smile. Moreau smiles. The cameras flash. They thank her and move away apologetically.
"I've always admired her," says Evelyn Zlotnick of Moreau. Zlotnick, an experienced Washington guest and a very experienced hostess, has avoided the lines and settled in a chair. "Of course, I'm no kid. I've admired her for a long time.
"I always thought she had magnificent eyes and mouth."
The camera glides from the blue smudge under the right eye to the two bright blue blotches painted on the deep red lips of Natasha (no last name necessary, she says), who will take over the 9:30 club for her "First Quadrennial Inaugural Brawl" on the night of the presidential inaugural next month.
"The reason I'm throwing this party is I don't want the Republican Party to be in charge of my city," says Natasha. "But this is not a Democratic party. This is not an anti-Reagan inaugural ball. This is a pro-avant-garde arts in Washington party."
Natasha is the only guest sporting blue smudges. Her party will probably be the only inaugural event where a performance artist will perform a "decrucifixion."
"You may ask what a decrucifixion is," she says. "It's getting over your hang-ups."
"They represent something that is in the essence of women," Moreau says of actresses like Gish, whom she calls "goddesses."
"The audience looks for that -- suddenly they can see a woman who can live it out on the screen. And it's not pretense. You cannot pretend.
"The camera -- it's a cruel eye. I'm not talking in terms of wrinkles or age," she says, fluttering her fingers in front of the lines radiating from the corners of her eyes. "It's a cruel eye."