…AND GOD CREATED WOMAN—–gratefully, one of them was Brigitte Bardot. In 1956 the heart-stopping 22-year-old actress/singer/dancer/model had already appeared in 17 features, and had achieved popularity in France. Her exposure abroad was limited to small parts in Doctor at Sea, a Brit comedy with Dirk Bogarde, and playing a handmaiden to the title temptress in the epic Helen Of Troy. This tease-laden drama, directed by Roger Vadim, let the world in on what the Good Lord had in his top secret Creator blueprints.
“Whenever you look at her, you appear less intelligent.”
In the sun-drenched seaside town of St.Tropez, free-spirited orphan ‘Juliette’ (BB) is so alive with unabashed sexual energy that her affronted guardians want to send her back to an orphanage. Three besotted men, with differing agendas, want her to stay. Middle aged, moneyed and suavely confident ‘Eric’ (Curt Jürgens, 40) figures his yacht and worldliness will seduce her. Ruggedly handsome, arrogant ‘Antoine’ (Christian Marquand, 29), eldest son of a family with property Eric wants to buy, has simple lust on his mind, but nothing beyond that. His shy and naive younger brother ‘Michel’ (Jean-Louis Trintignant, 25) feels the pain pangs of tender love stirring.
“I’d rather play Santa Claus than a puppet.”
It was the first film directed by Vadim, 28, who was married to Bardot (the first of his six). She’d been with him since she was 15, wed at 18; when this was over, after five years of marriage they called it quits, but worked together on several more films. Along with directing, he co-wrote the script with Raoul Lévy. The $300,000 investment in Brigitte’s allure took off like a heat-seeking missile, first in Europe, then when it made it to the Unenlightened States a year later, that atrocious display of Brigitte’s hedonist charms, even though edited enough that it wouldn’t undo the effects of Wonder Bread, grossed $8,600,000, becoming what was then the most successful foreign film to ever threaten our morals.
“That girl is made to destroy men.”
The story is only mildly interesting in and of itself, but the cast carry it off and Armand Thirard’s seductive you-are-there cinematography is flush with rich-hued land & sea scapes of then-unheralded St.Tropez, and of course the natural wonder/national treasure that is Brigitte. Some of the outdated sexual politics will no doubt vex those who enjoy being vexed: bleat yourself blue while we ponder Bardot and wonder if we need to have a defibrillator handy. Juliette’s strong-willed, maligned and misunderstood character comes off much better than the cloddish men (the actors are good, the guys they play are dicks). Not merely sexy—enough to invade Europe over—Juliette is cheerful, kind, honest, playful and clever. It helps then that Bardot comes off convincingly as possessing all those qualities. Ravishing to a degree that could melt the Eiffel Tower, she’s also, unlike most movie goddesses, approachable. Beneath the face and form was an excellent, underrated actress, equally adept at comedy or drama. You can’t take your eyes off her because you don’t want to. Bring on the bongos.
With Georges Poujouly, Marie Glory, Isabelle Corey, and Jane Marken. Music score is by Paul Misraki. 92 minutes long, along with launching BB and Trintignant, it put St.Tropez on the map as a place to play. Though the Mediterranean locale had been active for more than 2,000 years and had survived Phoenicians, Romans, pirates, Saracens, Turks, Spaniards and WW2’s “Operation Dragoon”, it fell to a 5″5′ blonde bombshell with a pout.
“All the future does is spoil the present.”
In 1988 Vadim, doing some desperate self-pillaging, directed another movie with the same title, and an entirely different storyline. Set in New Mexico, it starred Rebecca de Mornay (no slight sex-kitten herself) and Frank Langella. Costing 17 times more than the first one, it earned just 13% as much. Stick with BB.