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Jeanne Moreau hooks Stanley Baker and hangs him out to dry
"Eva" has a lot of style, a lot of lovely scenery, a fair amount of emoting, a score from Michel LeGrand that sounds both offbeat and European, and not that much plot. It has quite a lot of noir elements to the plot and occasionally noir photography.
Jeanne Moreau is a sultry woman of 34, but looking older. She likes money and uses men to get it. She likes luxury but she's really a high class prostitute. She's self-indulgent and likes herself. She knows exactly how to twist men around her finger by playing hard to get.
Stanley Baker is an insecure man who has stolen his brother's book and made his fame in that way. Made into a movie, he's in Venice and Rome with the director, screenwriter and cast, including the beauty Virna Lisi. He and Lisi are a couple, but Baker is a womanizer. When he becomes addicted to Moreau, tragedy follows.
Moreau likes to listen to Lady Day, especially "Willow Weep for Me". It is perhaps a mistake of the movie to use it so much and so fully, because in 16 short bars of music Billie outclasses anything on the screen, and she brings us into a world that is totally different in its purity and beauty from anything in the lives of Baker and Moreau, though not the pure-looking Lisi.
I like Baker a great deal, and for the most part, in most scenes, he is entirely believable. But when it comes to his playing the sheep dog to Moreau and becoming a footstool, he cannot do it convincingly. He's too strong. Yes, Richard Burton could do that and in some of his roles as washed up men, he did exactly that.
Supporting actor James Villiers as the screenwriter was first-rate. He livened up the story whenever he appeared.
Otherwise we had to put up with a rather excessive focus on Moreau's exploration of Baker's bedroom and her playing with her hair and doing modest unrobings. This stood in for some better written scenes with the two stars acting and interacting with others. There just seemed to be too much missing.
There was no way to be sympathetic to anyone except the poor Lisi, who marries Baker and is hoping that her love will suffice.
In the end, the surroundings and photography of Venice and the haunts of the rich hold the film together almost better than do the disjointed story and Baker's seemingly endless attempts to bed Moreau, which are sometimes rewarded and sometimes spurned. At times, I felt as if I was watching a watered down version of "La Dolce Vita".
Movies don't always come out as planned or envisioned, and sometimes they lack these and/or the complete artistry needed to make them pan out. This one has the feel of talented people trying but somehow missing. Even they may not know why they missed, but the result is still better for having been tried than never to have appeared at all.
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