Thesp finds kindred spirit in Duras role

PARIS — French film icon Jeanne Moreau meets her literary match in “Cet-Amour-la,” playing best-selling author Marguerite Duras (“The Lover”), who lived the last 16 years of her life in an alcohol fueled love-hate relationship with Yann Andrea, 40 years her junior.

Pic, based on Andrea’s memoir and directed by Josee Dayan, opened about a month ago in France and has grossed $476,000.

Moreau knew Duras well. They met in 1959, traveled together and, in 1972, collaborated on Duras’ “Natalie Granger,” based on her eponymous book.

“When I met Duras, she was writing in the kitchen,” Moreau tells Variety in her husky, sexy voice. She crushes out a cigarette, immediately lights another.

Duras, who died a millionaire in 1996, eventually acquired several “rooms of her own.” And despite the drama in her life, she entered them daily, writing more than 50 books, screenplays and plays.

“Come, Yann, she would say, let’s go into the Black Room,” Moreau explains. Duras dictated to Andrea, who typed the books on his old Olivetti. As Duras’ alcoholism progressed, their world closed in upon them. “There are very mysterious and obsessional ways of living,” states Moreau knowingly, her bronze eyes as alive at 73 as when she made Francois Truffaut’s “Jules and Jim” in 1961.

“People are not liberated enough to imagine a relationship between an older woman and a very young man,” states Moreau, who married twice, one the father of her son Jerome, and later director William Friedkin.

“Friedkin said he was much younger, but in fact, in divorce court, I discovered he lied,” laughs Moreau, who now lives contentedly alone in an elegant Right Bank rented apartment filled with books and painting.

“In your 70s, the greatest pleasure is to be beyond gender,” she says. “It allows freedom and a certain power and a real perspective on the world.”

Though she says she never wanted a successful career, just a successful life, Moreau ended up with both.

Perhaps inspired by Duras, Moreau is writing a lot these days. Last year, she adapted and directed Margaret Edson’s “Wit” for the Paris stage.

Presently, she’s adapting Noel Coward’s “Fallen Angels,” which she will direct, starring Sandrine Bonnaire.

“By meeting and giving life to over 100 women,” Moreau explains, “I’ve discovered amazing things about human nature. It’s like leading many lives in one life.”

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