Bay of Angels (La Baie Des Anges)
Release Date: November 23, 1963

Bay of Angels

Long unavailable due to print damage, The Bay of Angels has been carefully restored by Agnes Varda, the widow of Director Jacques Demy. The storyline is simple:  mild mannered but bored bank clerk  Jean Fournier (Claude Mann) is persuaded by a friend to try his luck at gambling . When Jean wins six months salary in one night, his ambivalence towards gambling disappears.  Tired of his mundane existence, Jean arranges a vacation from work and heads back to Nice where he  meets Jackie Demaistre (Jeanne Moreau), an older peroxide blond  who effortlessly draws Jean into her world of compulsive gambling. He is attracted by her beauty, her style and her willingness to take risks. However, Jackie regards  Jean as nothing more than a "partner in a game," a convenient bedmate and a potential source of gambling funds. Jean's emotional attachment to Jackie delays his inevitable realization that "love is just a [another] game of chance" for her. "Gambling has become my religion," she says.  Instead of a Gideon bible, she carries a miniature roulette wheel in her purse.

Moreau's performance as Jackie Demaistre is captivating and very believable.  Her indifference to losing money is conveyed by a flippant toss of peroxide blonde hair, or a sharp exhalation of smoke from yet another cigarette. We hear the roulette ball rolling around and around while the camera focuses on  the strangely expectant but impassive countenances of the gamblers: each face a  token of existential angst. Moreau's skill at portraying the self-centeredness  of Jackie threatens to make Jean's naiveté seem unrealistic, but so riveting is her performance that we are willing to "suspend our disbelief". Our patience is  rewarded when Jean finally recognizes the futility of being a "partner" in Jackie's game. 

Jean Rabier's cinematography expertly contrasts the expansive spaciousness of the Cote d'Azur beaches with the close quarters of  the gambling tables. Relaxing on the beach is an escape from the gambling routine for Jean; but an uncomfortable  test of endurance for Jackie. Indeed, it is difficult to believe she will ever break free from her gambling obsession. Demy seems to answer that question in the final 30 seconds of the movie. Or does he?  No sense in being a spoiler!                         Rating (1-10): 8.

Copyright: Peter Fokes (2004)
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