I’ll be posting on a lot of films from the Philadelphia Film Festival (including Melancholia, Beyond the Black Rainbow and The Turin Horse) very soon, but for now, let’s go with a little Brigitte Bardot in the film that didn’t necessarily introduce her to the world, but did introduce her sexuality.
Roger Vadim is probably best known for a) marrying Brigitte Bardot, b) being that dude directing during a critical time of French cinema whose interests lay mostly in the softcore sexual, and c) directing Barbarella.
…And God Created Woman is a pretty simple story. Bardot plays Juliete. She’s wild, lascivious and gorgeous. Under the threat of being shipped out of town she marries Michel (the great Jean-Louis Trintignant) so she can stay put in the safety of wedlock. Unfortunately, she may sort of still be infatuated with Michel’s older brother Antoine (Christian Marquand) and is certainly attracted to the money of the older entrepreneur Eric (Curd Jurgens).
Vadim’s film is sort of like a colorful, big-budget version of Rocco and His Brothers, which would come out towards the end of the Italian Neo-Realist period in 1960.
Vadim is no idiot. Bardot dresses scantily and his camera frequently investigates her. The opening – her bare legs peering out from behind a sheet hanging to dry – is emblematic of the entire film: show enough to draw us in the way her suitors are drawn in.
While the story is capably told and the acting is well above average, this is really a vehicle for Bardot to strut her stuff more so than for us to witness the torrid romance (as I’m sure it was advertised). The ending (SPOILER) is both famous and ludicrous:
Having slept with Antoine in Michel’s absence, Juliete takes to the town. She sits down at a bar, gets drunk and goes downstairs to find a Creole band practicing. The ensuing dance sequence is another platform for the leading lady, and it’s the rare time in the film that Vadim’s camera seems to do anything more than just leer (well, it still does leer) as it bounces along with the music, plays a quick mirror trick, and whips the scene up into a frenetic energy.
…And God Created Woman is not only important for fully introducing Bardot. It also prefigures her ironically sexual roles in later films like Contempt, which would have much less power were Bardot not already firmly entrenched in her super-model/leading actress status. The famous actress would only act until the early 70s, when she abruptly quit to avoid the spotlight.