Saturday, February 23, 2019

...AND GOD CREATED WOMAN - #77


Following last week’s viewing of Clouzot’s La verité [review] and the questions it raised regarding how the director chose to use the image and reputation of his lead actress, Brigitte Bardot, it seemed like the right time to back up and take a look at the film that defined Bardot as an international sex symbol: 1956’s ...And God Created Woman.

Dubbed by the Criterion edition’s back cover hype as “a milestone in cinematic naughtiness,” ...And God Created Woman has little cause to be remembered beyond Bardot’s petulant performance and all the excuses the filmmakers find to get her undressed. ...And God Created Woman was the debut effort of writer/director Roger Vadim (Barbarella), who was married to Bardot at the time, and he misses no opportunity in exploiting his famous wife. Or wives. This was Vadim’s m.o., going from here to have both public and cinematic liaisons with Jane Fonda and Catherine Deneuve.


Truth be told, he needs these women to prop him up. Roger Vadim is not a good film director. He is pedestrian, at best. Most of ...And God Created Woman is shot straight-on, with little movement or composition. Vadim’s single trick is to sometimes use a mirror reflection as an extension of his leering camera eye. He probably would have had a better career as a pornographer, as the only thing he seems to know how to do exceptionally well is pose a naked body. So much so that in La verité Clouzot calls back to the first appearance of the nude Bardot in ...And God Created Woman--lounging on her stomach, derriere in full view--to show her character seducing the man she’d later kill.

Not that a more artful flourish could have done much for ...And God Created Woman’s script. This is standard melodrama, with Curd Jurgens (The Spy Who Loved Me) as a wealthy developer looking to buy a tiny family shipyard to secure all the land he needs to build a casino. The family doesn’t want to sell, however, and Jurgens locks horns with the eldest son (Jean-Louis Trintignant, (Trois Coleurs: Red [review], Amour [review]). Both, of course, are also involved with Bardot, whose Juliette likes flirting with the older man but genuinely cares for the younger. When Trintignant’s Michel proves to be a cad, Juliette marries his younger brother--predictably reigniting the others’ desire to have her.


If you were to make a parody of what a French film is supposed to be, whatever cliché comes to mind is most likely ...And God Created Woman. The gray morality play about a young woman with multiple lovers who is both lauded and punished for her sexuality would be sitcom fodder for years to come. Remember Rochelle, Rochelle? Too bad in reality ...And God Created Woman is more boring than laughable. Then again, this also gives credence to my theory that Clouzot was tearing apart such banal tropes in La verité, giving some agency back to the performer and the image that defined her. Skip ahead two years and just watch that far superior drama. Or, if you must, treat ...And God Created Woman as it seems intended, and just fast forward past the story to the naked bits.



For more Bardot and Vadim, check my review of The Brigitte Bardot Classic Collection.

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