Jeanne Moreau, the most iconic film actress since Garbo, is gorgeous, glamorous and brilliant in Joseph Losey’s Eva. A materially fit prostitute, Eva Olivier is pathetically craved by Tyvian Jones, a Welshman who has hit paydirt as a coal miner by converting his experiences, embellished, into a novel. Eva mocks, teases, torments, threatens, even physically abuses Ty—on one occasion, with an indefatigable whip. She is as remorseless as the cigarette that so often dangles from her sultry lips. A key to grasping this engrossing, even bewitching melodrama, which at times appears to be a trial run for Losey’s The Servant (1963), except that it is a working-class guy who rises in the world that here gets taken down, is this: Eva is a reflection of the whore that Ty feels himself to be by his hifalutin success. He is beating himself up, in effect, because he feels unworthy of this success. This baroque film, although it unfolds in exile in Venice, studies the British class system that Ty has internalized and which prevents him from enjoying his social/financial advancement.
Ty’s love for Eva goes unreciprocated (Eva, larger than life, is beyond loving anyone); similarly, Ty skips out on Francesca on their honeymoon to skedaddle over to Eva, who won’t even let him into her bed—actually, his bed—after he makes the mistake of slapping her. Poor Francesca walks in on the scene and exits in a fit of disgrace. She commits suicide. Two years hence, poor Ty is reproached for not having ever placed a wreath on her grave. He hilariously explodes: “Is she dead or not? What does she need with a wreath!”
Understandably, Losey repudiated the 103-minute version we have; before the producers did their hatchet job, Losey’s cut ran 155 minutes.
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