I remember very clearly the moment when I first saw Claude Jade. I was 15 and sitting in study hall reading James Monaco's The New Wave instead of whatever assignment I was ignoring that day. The book, which would prove so important to me, was a trade paperback with the pages already yellowing and it's black and white photos becoming less and less clear each time I looked at them. I had found the book in a used Evansville, Indiana bookstore and it fuelled my new found appetite for French film and especially Jean-Luc Godard. The photos of Claude of course were in the Truffaut section and while they conveyed little of what made her so special they stuck with me.
Years later I was at College in Lexington Kentucky in a particular cleaning house phase of my life when I rented a number of Francois Truffauts films from a local video store. Over the period of a few nights I felt transformed by this man and his evoctive memory films. Why I waited so long to discover Truffaut I don't know but I found them at the perfect time.
All of the films I watched that week had a profound affect on me but it was the third Antoine Doinel adventure, Baisers Voles (Stolen Kisses), that left me feeling the warmest. Suddenly those blurry black and white photos I had stored in my memory for so long became alive and I could finally see that her hair was as red as I had imagined with her skin as fair as I had hoped.
Claude Jade was an accomplished screen and stage actress in France. She won awards, wrote a book and even made a film with Hitchcock but it's her work with Truffaut in three films as Christine Doinel that I hold so close.
Upon hearing the news that cancer had taken this lovely woman away a couple of weeks ago made me feel of course very sad but also reminded me of what a wonderful thing it was to be 20. That's how old she was when she made Stolen Kisses in 1968 and that's how old I was when I first saw it around 1993. I think of her as an old friend that I might run into again, a secret crush that I kep't to myself inhabiting a world where things like aging and cancer don't exist.
I'm reminded of what Tony Bennett said upon hearing that Frank Sinatra died, "I don't have to believe that" and that's how I feel about Claude Jade. I have no doubt we'll meet again at 20 and if only for a moment I'll be able to tell her that I've missed her.