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RIP Jeanne Moreau – Come Hear Her Most Famous Song! Posted by on Aug 4, 2017 in Film, Music, People

On Monday, director, screenwriter, actress, and singer Jeanne Moreau passed away at the age of 89. Jeanne was best known for her portrayal of Catherine in François Truffaut’s 1962 New Wave masterpiece Jules et Jim.

Image courtesy of Criterion

The plot focuses around 2 friends with opposite personalities who share the same passion for art, literature, and women. Unsurprisingly enough, the two manage to fall for the same woman. Jules wins her hand in marriage, but years later, Jim meets Catherine again and discovers his feelings hadn’t changed at all. I won’t give away the ending since you absolutely have to see this movie, but I promise it’s worth your time!

The film, which Stephen Hawking has called his “favorite movie of all time,” is based on Henri-Pierre Roché’s 1953 semi-auto biographical novel. Truffaut came across the book in a secondhand shop in Paris, loved what he read, and eventually sought out and befriended the author. Roché, who was in his 70s at the time, gave Truffaut his blessing to turn his book into a movie. The filmmaker would also adapt Roché’s second novel, Les deux anglaises et le continent, to film in 1971.

Jules et Jim was a hit and won both the Grand Prix and best actress awards. In fact, it is still being recognized for its impact on cinema in modern times: in 2010, it came in at #46 on Empire magazine’s “100 Best Films Of World Cinema.”

After the film’s premiere, Truffaut received praise from the real life inspiration of Catherine, Henri-Pierre’s wife, Helen Hessel:

“I am, at 75, what is left of Kathe, the awesome heroine of Pierre Roché’s novel Jules and Jim. You can imagine the curiosity with which I waited to see your film on the screen. On January 24, I ran to the movie theatre. Sitting in that dark auditorium, in the dread of veiled resemblances and more or less irritating parallels, I was soon swept along, gripped by the magical power – yours and Jeanne Moreau’s ¬– with which you revived what had been lived through blindly. The fact that Pierre Roché was able to tell the story of the three of us and kept it very close to the actual events has nothing miraculous about it. But what disposition in you, what affinity, could enlighten you to the point of making the essence of our intimate emotions perceptible? As far as this goes, I’m your authentic judge, since the other two witnesses, Pierre and Franz, are no longer here to express their “yes” to you. Affectionately yours, dear Monsieur Truffaut.”

On Monday, director, screenwriter, actress, and singer Jeanne Moreau passed away at the age of 89 in Paris. Jeanne may be best known for her portrayal of Catherine, but she was very active in other projects. You may have even seen her in a few anglophone films such as Ever After: A Cinderella Story and Love Actually.

When I was in graduate school, I did a presentation on this movie and focused on one of the featured songs. Le Tourbillon” (The Whirl) focuses on lovers meeting then separating then finding each other again. Stanley Kaufmann, a film critic, mentioned that the song was not pertinent for the action of the film. I remember being very confused reading the words. It’s absolutely necessary for the story’s narrative, especially since it acts as a summary of the relationships!

I have to admit, though, that upon my first listen, I was more focused on how I could use the song as a teaching tool. Jeanne sings in very clear and slow French, so it’s perfect for learners. You can focus on a number of grammar points from the song (such as why there’s an -s on the end of the certain past participles). You can also study le passé simple and its usage over l’imparfait – see if students can rewrite the lyrics using le passé composé. It could also be fun to discuss the idea of la femme fatale. Need some pronunciation lesson ideas? Jeanne is the queen of elision in this song!

 

Let’s give it a listen!

Elle avait des bagues à chaque doigt,
She had rings on every finger
Des tas de bracelets autour des poignets,
A ton of bracelets around her wrists
Et puis elle chantait avec une voix
And then she’d sing with a voice
Qui, sitôt, m’enjôla.
That immediately seduced me

Elle avait des yeux, des yeux d’opale,
She had eyes, eyes like opal
Qui me fascinaient, qui me fascinaient.
That fascinated me
Y avait l’ovale de son visage pâle
The oval of her pale face
De femme fatale qui me fut fatale (x2)
Of a femme fatale who was fatal to me

On s’est connus, on s’est reconnus,
We met, we recognized each other
On s’est perdus de vue, on s’est reperdus de vue
We lost sight of each other, we lost sight again
On s’est retrouvés, on s’est réchauffés,
We met again, we heated each other up
Puis on s’est séparés.
Then we separated

Chacun pour soi est reparti
Each one left
Dans le tourbillon de la vie
In the whirl of life
Je l’ai revue un soir, aïe, aïe, aïe
I saw her one night, aye, aye aye
Ça fait déjà un fameux bail x2
It’s been a long time

Au son des banjos je l’ai reconnue.
At the sound of the banjos, I recognized
Ce curieux sourire qui m’avait tant plu.
This curious smile that pleased me
Sa voix si fatale, son beau visage pâle
Her voice was so irresistable, her beautiful pale face
M’émurent plus que jamais.
Moved me more than ever

Je me suis soûlé en l’écoutant
I got drunk listening to her
L’alcool fait oublier le temps
Alcohol makes you forget time
Je me suis réveillé en sentant
I woke up feeling
Des baisers sur mon front brûlant x2
Kisses on my burning forehead

On s’est connus, on s’est reconnus,
We met, we recognized each other
On s’est perdus de vue, on s’est reperdus de vue
We lost sight of each other, we lost sight again
On s’est retrouvés, on s’est réchauffés,
We met again, we heated each other up
Puis on s’est séparés.*
Then we separated

Chacun pour soi est reparti
Each one left
Dans le tourbillon de la vie
In the whirl of life
Je l’ai revue un soir ah là là
I saw her one night, ah la la
Elle est retombée dans mes bras.
She fell into my arms again

 

Quand on s’est connus,
When we met
Quand on s’est reconnus,
When we recognized each other
Pourquoi se perdre de vue,
Why lose sight
Se reperdre de vue ?
Why lose sight again?

 

Quand on s’est retrouvés,
When we find each other,
Quand on s’est réchauffés,
When we heat each other up again
Pourquoi se séparer ?
Why separate?

Alors tous deux on est repartis
Then we both we back
Dans le tourbillon de la vie
Into the whirl of life
On à continué à tourner
We kept on turning
Tous les deux enlacés
Both of us interlaced
Tous les deux enlacés.
Both of us interlaced

 

* You may have noticed this line and the previous are inversed in the song. Jeanne mixed them up during filming (note her hands pointing that out and the slight laugh), but Truffaut decided to keep this for the final cut.


Here’s something fun! Vanessa Paradis recorded a cover of the song, and in 1995, she performed the piece with Jeanne at the Festival de Cannes:

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About the Author:Josh Dougherty

Just your typical francophile. If you have any topics you'd like me to discuss, feel free to let me know!


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