Bay of Angels

La baie des anges

dir. Jacques Demy

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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A dazzlingly blonde Jeanne Moreau stars as a compulsive gambler who seduces a young bank clerk and drags him from casino to casino along the Côte d'Azur as a lucky charm.

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Shot in gleaming black and white and lushly scored by Michel Legrand, the ever-amazing Bay of Angels dazzles: everything about it, from the sun-struck Côte d'Azur with its glittering casinos to the hardened ash-blonde glamour of Jeanne Moreau in a tight white suit, has a blinding intensity. Moreau plays a compulsive gambler who seduces a young bank clerk (Claude Mann) and drags him from casino to casino, from Nice to Monaco and back, as a mascot. One senses condescension in Pauline Kael's description of Bay as "a magical, whirling little film, a triumph of style"; when she asks, "What would this film be like without Jeanne Moreau? ... The picture is almost an emanation of Moreau, is inconceivable without her," she is both right — it is one of Moreau's best performances — and off the mark: with or without Moreau, Bay of Angels is resplendent. "So existential, so romantic ... The great beauty of [Bay] is the way the croupier's spiraling wheel becomes a metaphor not for life's randomness, but for its lack of permanence, its riskiness[:] [a] hardened demimondaine can bet on a number and suddenly abandon it to dash after her beloved — an ecstatic ending a few films later revealed as the cause of another heroine's melancholy" (Fernando F. Croce).