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I don't think "Eve" is worth the attention of anyone but cinephiles and graduate students doing work on Losey. There are interesting sequences, interesting primarily from a technical point of view, for the camera work, for the mise-en-scene, for the set decoration and so on.
But the film doesn't hold up as a story. The character development and motivation are missing in the cut I saw at New York's Film Forum on 4/15/00. In "Conversations with Losey," Losey makes it clear he saw this film as a very personal document and offers full explanations of the characters and their motivations; they simply aren't there in this 125-minute version.
The characters are two-dimensional, and, because of this, right away one is thrown out of the human dimension into a graduate school world where the film becomes a puzzle to be solved, a series of symbols to be interpreted, etc. James Leahy provides just such a literary-type analysis of the film on pages 116-124 of "The Cinema of Joseph Losey," exactly the sort of article that appeared in abundance about various European films in the late 50s and early 60s.
In the version I saw, I couldn't care a bit about the characters or what happened to them. It was never clear what Tyvian Jones saw in Eve Olivier, especially after she knocks him out with a heavy glass ashtray on their first meeting. Is Tyvian a masochist? Jeanne Moreau, as Eve, is photographed attractively here, but she doesn't have the necessary je ne sais quoi that I expect in femmes fatales.
Nor are other aspects of Tyvian's character very clear. At one point, he says that the novel he published and which earned him fame and has been turned into a successful film was, in fact, written by his brother, a Welsh coalminer now dead. What does that have to do with his fascination with Eve?
Stanley Baker, who plays Tyvian, is without sex appeal here, though in other films I've seen him in, he was quite the stud of his time, exuding a raw sexuality.
Eve's character is likewise blank. At one point she tells Tyvian a story about her youth, then laughs at Tyvian, saying, "You'd believe anything," implying she'd made the story up on the spot. She talks of having a husband but turns out not to have one. "At the end of the film we are not one whit nearer to understanding why Eve's life should be dedicated as it is to the dual passion for acquiring money and destroying men." (John Taylor, Sight & Sound, Autumn 1963, p. 197)
The supporting characters aren't fuller developed either. I know next to nothing about Branco Malloni and could not understand why Francesca preferred Tyvian to Branco. What is the function of McCormick and Anna Maria? Perhaps they were intended as foils to Eve and Tyvian, but they are in and out of the plot sporadically.
Though the film is of interest for its camera work, the film looks like many other films of the late 50s and early 60s, like films by Antonioni, by Fellini, by Resnais ("Marienbad" in particular). And why shouldn't it? Gianni Di Venanzo, who worked with Antonioni, photographed "Eve." And the film takes place in Rome and Venice. There are nightclub scenes that could have come from "La Dolce Vita"; the same with a scene at a gambling club. The film's jazz-based score by Michel Legrand makes it like many other European films of the time. And, of course, the opaque characters and the heavy use of symbolism are typical of Italian and French films of this time.
In addition to all of this, the plot was a bit confusing to me. It was not until I read the plot summary of the film in "Joseph Losey: A Revenge on Life" (pages 158-162) that I understood many points of the plot. I'd suggest that anyone read a plot summary before seeing "Eve."
But, then, should the average moviegoer have to do all this? No. Which comes back to my original point: the characters and their relationships, their story, are of little or no interest in themselves.
Of course, if Losey's original 2 hr. 45-minute version of the film were available, I might have a very different opinion of "Eve." But that version, apparently, is lost forever.
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