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The Brigitte Bardot: Classic Collection

by Kilian Melloy
Thursday Dec 10, 2009
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The films included on the 3-DVD The Brigitte Bardot Classic Collection possess a campy charm, and span genres from farce (Plucking the Daisy) to torrid melodrama (The Night Heaven Fell) to Art with a neon capital A (Don Juan, or If Don Juan Were A Woman), none of these titles live up to the billing of "classics." For that, this collection would have needed to include ...And God Created Woman, or Contempt, or Masculine-Feminine, all true classics in which Bardot starred.

Plucking the Daisy (or, of you prefer one of the other titles under which it was release, Mademoiselle Striptease), the black-and-white 1956 comedy directed by Marc Allégret, packs plenty of sex and confusion into its 99 minutes, but while events (and French horndogs) swirl around Bardot’s sweetly naive young writer Agnès, there’s nothing profound about the film, except, if your tastes run that way, Bardot’s extremely modest turn as a masked dancer in a contest. (That’s right, she needs to win the prize money on order to... oh, never mind, get yourself a bottle of something French and see it for yourself.) Bardot is the best part of the film: fresh-faced and something of a gamine, she pulls off the part of Agnès with verve.

Re-teaming with her ...And God Created Woman director, Roger Vadim (who was also her husband) for 1958’s The Night Heaven Fell, Bardot plays Ursula--again, the role is young and naive, but it’s erotically charged, too, for Ursula has just finished her education at a convent and no sooner has she arrived back home with her aunt and uncle than she falls in love with a local tough named Lambert (Stephen Boyd). The production values are quite good for the time--wide-screen format and color film--but the script can’t decide whether the thrust of the story is the three-sided web of attraction between Lambert, Ursula, and Ursula’s aunt, Florentine (Alida Valli), in the wake of the Spanish civil war--or a poorly-conceived religious allegory: Lamberto, at age 33, makes for a handsome sacrifice--a lamb, if you will--but it’s convent-educated Ursula who becomes the film’s tragic figure.

Then there’s Bardot’s final feature film, again directed by Roger Vadim, Don Juan, or, If Don Juan Were A Man. Mod (as in, modern in the retro-sense of the word) and messy, this 1973 production smacks of ego and overt symbolism. Roger Vadim is credited here simply as VADIM, in bold red; Bardot plays a rich playgirl named Jeanne who lives in a shining silver submarine kitted out with fur rugs and a big bed (and windows and a fireplace, no less). Jeanne likes to possess men and then destroy them; when she seeks the company of her cousin Paul (Mathieu Carrière), a priest, is it to make her confession, or to seduce him? Both, it would seem; Jeanne has killed someone, but it takes a while for her to reveal who it was.

Meantime, she explains (with the help of flashbacks) how she ruined a prominent official, humiliated a brutish, sexist playboy (a fellow much like herself, actually), and drew a musician (played by Robert Walker, Jr.) into her clutches. It’s all part and parcel for Jeanne, who sees herself as a man, and not just any man: she claims to be the reincarnation of Don Juan. (Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, played at a funeral, gives the game away early on.) This film has the look and mood of something you’d stumble across at 3 a.m., and it makes you feel like you’ve been up all night no matter when you watch it. Bardot is long past her gamine days; here, she’s like Catherine Deneuve, if Deneuve were more hard-edged and jaded.

The DVDs all share the same set of minimal special features: theatrical trailers for Plucking the Daisy, ...And God Created Woman, and The Night Heaven Fell, and a Brigitte Bardot filmography.

Special Features include:
- Theatrical trailer
- Brigitte Bardot filmography

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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