Jean Seberg: Actress Activist – Raindance 21 Review. By Alif Majeed.
An interesting choice that Jean Seberg: Actress Activist Icon, the latest documentary about the iconic actress, makes is Breathless is not given any more attention than required. Almost as if the makers recognized that her life was more than just one movie. To many, Jean Seberg is an actress defined by that one film, Breathless, and it easily looms large over her life. Very little information is still not widely known about the actress, apart from the fact that she was in that iconic movie.
It’s just been a couple of years since Seberg, where Kristen Stewart did a fairly commendable job to honor the actress and her ‘relationship’ with the FBI in the Black Panther era. Even though it was not seen by many and got critically drubbed, that movie is still pretty fresh in the memory.
So when the new documentary comes out honoring her life and career, you get curious. It wisely covers all aspects of her life by primarily dividing it into three parts, her personal life and early life. Then, they move on to her career before focusing on her activist years and her association with the Black Panther organization.
One highlight here, from a documentary perspective, is that they got some pretty integral people to Seberg’s life to take part. People like her sister Mary Ann Seberg and her former husband François Moreuil taking part as talking heads bring a very personal perspective to peek into her life.
It was lovely to hear about her early life and formative years, especially from her sister. As far as her movie career is concerned, yes, Breathless still is the epicenter of her career here. But they have given a fair focus on her filmography. Some surprising facts also came up for me, like her near-death experience from her movie Saint John.
I wish there were more information and discussion about the impact of the Black Panthers in her life. Also, her strange relationship with the FBI and the “witch-hunt” conducted against her could have been given more prominence. Maybe it’s because Seberg already dealt with those aspects in a middling political thriller format. So I was curious about how this would play out as a documentary. Sadly, though, the directors touched upon it in fairly well. It still feels short on details about that part of her life.
Was the witch-hunt linked to her subsequent breakdown? We can never know for sure, but you imagine the mental and emotional toll such a concentrated effort to destroy one’s sanity would have taken on one’s life.
It would have done better if more information about that significant part of her life was available. But I suppose it would be enough if you are not aware of her as anything apart from the girl with the pixie cut in Breathless who captivated Jean-Paul Belmondo and, by default, the audience too. It is an admirable take on a remarkable woman whose life was tragically cut short.
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