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From the Journals of Jean Seberg Movie Review

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Jean Seberg was a pretty blonde from Iowa who was voted “most likely to succeed” when she graduated from high school in 1956. The following year, she was the first teenager to play Saint Joan onscreen. She received enormous publicity prior to the film's release, but both Seberg and director Otto Preminger were raked over the coals by critics and audiences alike. (The Harvard Lampoon cited Saint Joan as the worst film of the century 1857–1957 and complained that Seberg was “soporific as a saint and insipid as a sinner.”) After a start like that, there was nowhere to go but up, or back to Iowa. Seberg chose to make another film with Preminger, Bonjour Tristesse. If that movie had been her first, the career of Jean Seberg might have been quite different. As it was, her good work in her second movie still supplied her with a shot at international stardom in the heady early days of the French New Wave. Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless, written by François Truffaut and co-starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, gave Seberg her most fondly remembered role. As an American teen selling the N.Y. Herald Tribune on the streets of Paris, she was vivid and affecting, and her ultra-short haircut and off-the-rack wardrobe launched a new look for young girls of the late ‘50s to emulate. Jean Seberg appeared to be here to stay, but like her sophisticated facade, the public illusion was more persuasive than her private reality. Despite fine performances in dozens of underrated domestic and French movies, Seberg's life and career may well have been doomed from the moment she left her Midwestern home in Marshalltown. In From the Journals of Jean Seberg, Mark Rappaport's fictitious approach to her life, a former babysitting charge who grew up around the corner from Seberg tells the story of a sensitive small-town girl driven to professional and personal despair. Mary Beth Hurt, then 47, plays the Jean Seberg who might have been, had she overcome the tragedy of her life with Rappaport's blessed sense of irony. The film traces the work of such contemporaries as Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave, who achieved greater fame and recognition than Seberg and were better protected emotionally during their days of political activism. The fragile Seberg tried to kill herself annually on the anniversary of her baby daughter's death, after being hounded by the FBI who leaked false rumors that the premature infant had been fathered by a Black Panther. In From the Journals of Jean Seberg, Rappaport (who also assembled 1992's Rock Hudson's Home Movies) tells an immensely sad story with effective detail and compassionate honesty.

1995 97m/C D: Mark Rappaport; W: Mark Rappaport; C: Mark Daniels. VHS, DVD

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