Eve, or Eva, or with its most salacious title, The Devil’s Woman, this film is a fascinating curiosity from director Joseph Losey. The film was taken away from Losey in post-production. The producers expected more of a trashy, sexy thriller, in keeping with the source novel, but instead got a European art film.
The original cut of the film as compiled by Losey was 155 minutes. This version was submitted to the Venice Film Biennale, but it was never shown in public and is believed to no longer exist. The Eye Filmmuseum has restored it to 126 minutes, which the closest it’s ever been to Losey’s second cut of 135 minutes. This version had a disastrous preview in Paris. Until now, most cuts in circulation have been around the 110-minute mark.
Jeanne Moreau is the titular Eva. Moreau was basically the goddess of European art cinema at that point: she was hot off Jules et Jim, and was about to do Orson Welles’ adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Trial. In Eva, she plays a Billie Holiday-obsessed gold-digger, who becomes the target of lying sack of shit Welsh writer Tyvian Jones’s psychotic lust. Played by Stanley Baker, Tyvian is the embodiment of toxic masculinity, while Eva is the feline femme fatale who will utterly destroy him by the end. One of the alternative cuts ends with a line about a cat to cement the feline nature of Eva, who is certainly the more sympathetic of the two leads. She is essentially a prostitute, although that aspect of the story is deliberately downplayed by Losey.
Losey was not afraid to be pretentious, and Eve is undeniablya pretentious film. He thought he was making this grandiose statement about the relationship between the sexes, but although it’s not quite that, it’s always interesting. It’s very much a modern-day retelling of the story of Adam and Eve,band if you get that early on, it’s easier to swallow the film’s tone. Losey’s career was at a crossroads at the time. He had gotten as far as he could in the British film industry, and the French had loved his previous film, The Criminal, so he would become an increasingly more European director as the ’60s progressed. Before he began working in Britain, Losey had been a Hollywood director making mainly noirs, but he fled after being blacklisted and set up shop in the UK.
In any case, the two leads are sensational: Moreau is at her most sultry, and despite the film’s undeniable flaws, you can totally buy into Baker’s obsession with her. Losey’s son Gavrik can’t confirm or deny whether Losey and Moreau had any kind of fling during production, but the director was clearly infatuated with her, and it shows in the way she is photographed. Stanley Baker was known for rugged, macho roles—he did a lot of British noir and war films—but he looks so much like the Morrissey of today that I always find him kind of amusing. The two characters are archetypes, so any secondary characters are just that, even Jones’s long suffering fiancée, who is played by the more stereotypically beautiful Virna Lisi (although anybody with a brain would lust for Moreau’s Eva over her.)
If the film has a third character, it is Venice. The cinematography was by Gianni Di Venanzo, who also shot 8½ and key films by other Italian directors such as Michelangelo Antonioni and Francesco Rosi. Even critics of the film concede that the photography is just sensational, especially the first 30 minutes, which are utterly full of life. Venice just pops off the screen, and the jazz score by Michel Legrand complements the images wonderfully. Originally Losey wanted Miles Davis to do the score and use more Billie Holiday songs to symbolise the masculine and feminine, but allegedly Miles wanted too much money or something. He famously scored another film with Moreau, Ascenseur Pour L’échafaud, so Losey probably had that feel in his mind.
Overall, Eve might not completely come together due to a mixture of Losey’s pretentious aspirations and interference from the producers, but it’s an endlessly intriguing parable with two sensational performances, and the film is littered with stunning mirror shots. The release from Indicator includes four different versions of the film (some of the differences are very minor.) Archival interviews with Losey and Moreau, along with a new interview with Gavrik Losey and an appreciation by Neil Sinyard, are included. The BEHP Interview with Reginald Beck, who was the editor on the film and a Losey regular, serves as an alternative to a commentary track. The rest of the extras are a video comparison of the cuts, image gallery and the original UK and French theatrical trailers. The package also includes a booklet with a new essay by Phuong Le, Joseph Losey on Eve, a look at the James Hadley Chase source novel, an overview of contemporary critical responses, Simona Monizza on the Eye Filmmuseumrestoration of Eve, and film credits.