B&W, 1962, 126 mins. 33 secs. / 126 mins. 32 secs. / 109 mins. 11 secs. / 108 mins. 10 secs.
Directed by Joseph Losey
Starring Jeanne Moreau, Stanley Baker, Virna Lisi, James Villiers, Lisa Gastoni, Riccardo Garrone
Indicator (Blu-ray) (UK RB HD), / WS (2.35:1) (16:9), Kino Video (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1)
Few films had worse luck than Eve, a.k.a. Eva, director Joseph Losey's follow up to his excellent crime film from 1960, The Criminal, starring Stanley Baker. The director and star would reunite here for what amounts to a stylish showcase for Jeanne Moreau, then one of the biggest names in international cinema, but multiple conflicts and compromises along the way led to the film being mangled in various different forms around the world after a disastrous private showing at Cannes. The producers, Raymond and Robert Hakim (who also oversaw such films as Purple Noon and Belle de Jour), threw out some of the material from Losey's original 155-minute cut in the process, which has led to the daunting task of trying to reconstruct as much of the film as possible in the ensuing decades. Poor Losey was on a particularly bad streak of luck making this film back to back with These Are the Damned... but that's another story. A genuine director's cut of Eve would be impossible given the available material and the fact that Losey's original intentions for the soundtrack (to feature Miles Davis and Billie Holiday) were never realized in the first place, but the longest and truest version possible has finally been restored on home video for the first time.
Based more or less on a novel by the infamous potboiler writer James Hadley Chase (who caused a stir with No Orchids for Miss Blandish), the film is another variation on the corrupting woman idea a la The Blue Angel as Welsh writer Tyvian Jones (Baker) heads to Venice for the premiere of a movie based on his debut novel. While navigating a web of characters including screenwriter Alan (Villiers) and fiancée Francesca (Lisi), he falls head over heels for Eve (Moreau), an escort who professes no desire for emotional entanglements but takes pleasure in toying with him all the same. As his wedding approaches, Alan keeps finding himself drawn back to the unrepentant Eve who doesn't hold back on humiliating him in any way she can while keeping her own past and weaknesses a mystery.
Taking full advantage of its gorgeous monochromatic location shooting around Venice and Rome, this is a sumptuous and truly decadent film that remains compelling even when the two main characters are utterly devoid of any sympathy whatsoever. That's also largely due to the actors, with Moreau in particular owning every minute she has on screen, and while Losey may have only gotten a minor concession to his initial musical ideas with two of the numerous Holiday songs he wanted, the presence of composer Michel Legrand here is a big asset thanks to his smoky, haunting, and doom-laden jazz score.
The first DVD edition, as Eva, came from Kino Video in 2000 featuring two viewing options, a theatrical release version (103m32s) and a "complete director's cut" (119m16s), the latter obviously still missing quite a bit and looking extremely rough with burned-in Finnish subtitles throughout. The theatrical cut featured a better transfer, but both were non-anamorphic and didn't impress much even when the disc first came out. A subsequent U.K. DVD from Optimum featured a much improved 16x9 transfer but was still quite incomplete, coming in at 104m24s at PAL speed.
In 2020, Losey's film made its global Blu-ray debut from U.K. label Indicator in a lavish, limited 3,000-unit package highlighted by no less than four separate versions of the film, all in superb condition courtesy of elements at Studio Canal. The primary viewing option is what's touted as a brand new 2K scan of Eye Filmmuseum’s photochemical restoration of the longest known version of the film, obliterating the earlier DVDs and getting us as close as possible to Losey's original cut with what currently survives. (Two brief scenes still have those baked-in Scandinavian-sourced subtitles which are exclusive to that lone remaining source.) You can also watch that version with an extra snippet of dialogue (not in Losey's cut) added back in the final scene, which knocks the running time up by a second and might as well be your initial viewing option. Also included are the most commonly seen theatrical cut (the 109-minute one) as well as an alternate French version, The Devil’s Woman, which comes in a minute shorter but makes several little cosmetic and structural alterations while also explaining why this was known as Eva so often. All of the versions feature optional English SDH subtitles and feature a solid, problem-free English LPCM audio track.
Particularly useful here among the extras is "The Many Faces of Eve" (15m45s), a thorough comparison of the extant versions including demonstrations of scenes that have been added to this version and which ones still remain only partially complete compared to the initial Losey cut. "Other Places" (8m33s) is an archival black-and-white 1967 interview with Losey (featuring French voice over for the program Cinéma but subtitled back into English) with the director chatting about his thoughts on working outside Hollywood following his exile due to his political beliefs. Next is "Appetite for Destruction" (4m44s), a French-language subtitled interview for the program Tête d’affiche from 1972 with Moreau about her roles in this film and Roger Vadim's Les liaisons dangereuses as women who inflict a great deal of suffering on others. Both of these pieces are augmented with substantial clips from Eve as well. Playable as an alternate audio option for the 126m1s version is "The BEHP Interview with Reginald Beck," an in-depth, career-spanning interview with the editor and Losey mainstay recorded in 1987 in conversation with Alan Lawson. In "All About Eve" (18m57s), Gavrik Losey, the director's son, offers his own take on this "strange picture" with the avenging angel title character reflecting an extension of the relationship between his parents, as well as his own recollections of working in a minor capacity on this film's dub recording. Then film historian Neil Sinyard presents his own analysis of the film in "A Creation Myth" (23m31s) as part of a line of "mutilated masterpieces" and a key entry in Losey's filmography with its obsessive conflicts and use of symbolic imagery like masks. Also included are the (strangely bilingual) U.K. and French theatrical trailers, plus a gallery of stills and promotional material. As usual, the hefty insert booklet is essential as well and includes liner notes by Phuong Le, a Losey written excerpt on Eve, notes on the source novel and its more traditional thriller status, sample critical reactions, and notes by Simona Monizza on the Eye Filmmuseum restoration.
Reviewed on September 28, 2020.