Brigitte Bardot

I’ve always preferred mythology to history. History is composed of truths that become lies, mythology of lies that become truths. One characteristic of our age is that it creates instant myths in every field. The press is responsible for inventing people who already exist and endowing them with an imaginary life, superimposed on their own.

Brigitte Bardot is a perfect example of this odd concoction. It is likely that fate set her down at the precise point where dream and morality merge. Her beauty and talent are undeniable, but she posses some other, unknown quality which attracts idolaters in an age deprived of gods.

– Jean Cocteau (1)

In this light-hearted look at the DVD releases of Brigitte Bardot’s films, only legally available ones (highlighted in blue) are reviewed. It is highly likely that more (and better) DVDs will appear in the near future, in which case this article will be updated. Equally (and this is the Senses co-Editor now speaking), authors are invited to compile annotated DVD lists on their favourite actors, directors and DOPs, etc. That does not mean they should feel obliged to follow the format used below.

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THE FILMS

Note: The title of a film is that on the DVD digitisation of the film print or negative. The title in parenthesis is a literal English translation (if required) and may not have been used by any foreign distributor. English titles are those used in the US or UK. Other foreign titles are taken from posters in Stanislas Choko’s invaluable Brigitte Bardot à l’Affiche. (2) In some cases, the title on a DVD cover is given in the credits block to help fans locate a copy, should they so desire.

The listed screen ratio is what is quoted but, as everyone knows, is usually only an approximation.

Not every DVD has been tracked down, but hopefully at least one copy of every film released legally on DVD has.

“PB” indicates that the author is in a pedantic mood about accurately recorded screen titles and so for. These asides can be skipped with an easy conscience.

* * *

Le Trou Normand (The Normandy Hole, Jean Boyer, 1952)
aka Crazy for Love (US)

Still no DVD of this, Bardot’s first film. Available on VHS from René de Château in France, but unsubtitled.

* * *

Manina … la fille sans voile (Manina … The Girl Without a Veil, Willy Rozier, 1952)
aka The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter (UK), The Girl in the Bikini (US)

DVDs: Sport Films (France), Force Entertainment (Australia). DVD titles: Manina … la fille sans voile (France), The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter (Australia). (3) Language: French. Subtitles: English (Australian only). Ratio: 4:3 (both). Length: 1:24:35 (both). Black and white. Extras: stills galleries (both).

In her second feature, BB plays Manina, the daughter of a lighthouse keeper. After 40-odd tedious minutes of bad men and boats, Manina finally enters the narrative and falls in love with an uninspiring Gérard (Jean-François Calvé).

Manina … la fille sans voile

The film is of no interest other than for fans of a young Bardot (but obviously not the director, who is far more interested in filming half-naked men). It is alleged in almost every biography of BB (they are all almost identical) that Bardot’s father Pilou took legal action to remove the nudity and some over-revealing bikini scenes. It may not rank with the emasculation of Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), but it is a tragedy all the same.

However, it may not be true. Vadim Plémiannikov (aka Roger Vadim), then Bardot’s husband-to-be, would later write in Bardot Deneuve Fonda:

Although Pilou and [BB’s mother] Toti were sticklers for decorum, they were not offended when they saw photos of Brigitte in a swimsuit the size of a postage stamp. They were people of quality. Though ill-adapted to modern life and the changing morality, they showed they were capable of progressing in their ideas. (4)

Vadim is actually seen in the opening scene of Manina asleep during a science lecture. He and BB would marry five months after filming on 20 December 1953.

Though Bardot is known for her sexy screen persona, the amount of nudity in her films is actually miniscule. Manina has the distinction of having BB’s first nude moment: an exposed nipple for less than a second. On such scant evidence legends grow.

France released a restored version of the film on DVD in 2002, with a 66-strong stills gallery but no subtitles. The Australians followed in 2005, with a slightly sharper copy and English subtitles, but only 19 stills. Both are in the correct 4:3 ratio.

The French DVD says Bardot was 18 at the time of film, which is also stated in her many biographies. But Bardot was born on 28 September 1934 and the film started shooting on 30 June 1952, so Bardot was only 17.

Though there is no question that BB looks utterly radiant, the bikinis she has to wear, no matter the size, are some of the worst in cinema history.

* * *

Les Dents longues (The Long Teeth, Daniel Gélin, 1952)

Unavailable.
Bardot appears as a witness (with husband-to-be Roger Vadim) at the wedding of Eva (Danièle Gélin) and Louis (Daniel Gélin).

* * *

Le Portrait de son père (The Portrait of His Father, André Berthomieu, 1953)

Unavailable.

* * *

Act of Love (Anatole Litvak, 1953)
aka Quelque part dans le monde (France)

Like so many films directed by Anatole Litvak (where, for heaven’s sake, is 1970’s The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun?), this is unavailable on DVD.

* * *

Si Versailles m’était conté (If Versailles Were Talking to Me, Sacha Guitry, 1953)
aka Versailles (UK), If Versailles Could Talk (UK)

Unavailable.

* * *

Tradita (Mario Bonnard, 1954)
aka Haine, amour et trahison (France), Night of Love (US)

Unavailable.

* * *

Helen of Troy (Robert Wise, 1954)
aka Elena di Troia (Italy), Helène de Troie (France)

DVD: Warner Bros. (US, Australia). Language: English. Ratio: 2.55:1. Length: 1:55:45. Colour. Extras: three television spots, trailer.

Mrs Plémiannikov (aka BB) receives only 12th billing on this Warner Bros. epic, which is all she probably deserves for a couple of brief scenes as a servant to Helen (Rossana Podesta). Bardot’s voice sounds dubbed, but consulted books on her movies don’t make this claim.

The DVD looks glorious and is in acceptable widescreen (it should be 2.55:1 but will be 2.25:1 on most sets). There are three 6-minute television spots about the film narrated by Gig Young – one begins with him saying, “I hope you enjoyed Casablanca” (Michael Curtiz, 1942) –which are a fascinating archival record but add nothing to our knowledge of the divine BB.

* * *

Le Fils de Caroline Chérie (The Son of Caroline Chérie, Jean Devaivre, 1954)
aka Caroline and the Rebels (US)

DVDs: Cine Vu (US); Westlake Entertainment (US). DVD titles: Caroline and the Rebels (Cine Vu); …And God Created Woman [and] Caroline and the Rebels (Westlake). Language: English (dubbed). Subtitles: no. Ratio: 1.75 (Cine Vu); 4:3 (Westlake). Length: 1:47:33 (Cine Vu); ??? (the Westlake does not generate a time-code). Colour. Extras: none.

During the Napoléonic invasion of Spain by the French, a Julian Sorel-like character (Jean-Claude Pascal) keeps being arrested and sentenced to death, only to be saved by the women who love him … which is every female who ever sets eyes on him. BB plays his younger sister, except she isn’t his sister, which means passion may triumph at the end.

Shot in magnificent sets (the look like they are out of a film by Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub), stunning locations and excellent costumes, this is a hoot of a yarn. At its best it reminds one not only of the Straubs but the historically minded Eric Rohmer (Histoire d’O, 1976).

BB’s part is small and is no reason to track the film down; fortunately they are many other good reasons to do so.

That’s the good news. The bad is that both DVDs of this title are nothing short of a disgrace.

Though the Cine Vu is advertised and matted as widescreen, the 4:3 image sits in the middle with black either side. It is not a good look. Fortunately, the Westlake opts for a more traditional 4:3.

Both look as if they are taken from a dupe of a video taken from a 16mm print that has been screened continuously for 20 years in a projector that was never cleaned.

The dubbing, as one would expect, is not impressive, but, surprisingly, some rare wit still shines through. The Westlake is also silent during the final scenes!

But don’t despair: what other chance is there to see Bardot in this forgotten gem? Jean Devaivre needs reconsideration.

* * *

Futures Vedettes (Future Stars, Marc Allégret, 1955)
aka Sweet Sixteen (UK), School for Love (US)

Unavailable.

* * *

click to buy “Doctor at Sea” at Amazon.co.ukDoctor at Sea (Ralph Thomas, 1955)
aka Rendez-vous à Rio (France), Toubib à la Mer (Belgium)

DVD: Carlton (UK). Language: English. Ratio: 1.66:1. Length: 1:29:52. Colour. Extras: trailer.

At the 31-minute mark, this mildly amusing film comes spectacularly alive. Ashore at an exotic Mediterranean port, Dr Simon Sparrow (Dirk Bogarde) enters a nightclub, where a seductive Hélène Colbert sings “Je Ne Sais Pas”. It is 20-year-old Brigitte Bardot in the role that introduced her to British audiences. (One year later, Et Dieu … introduced her to the world.)

The next day, Sparrow enters his cabin to discover Helene naked behind the shower-curtain, supposedly the first time an actress was prepared to work fully naked on a British film set. Bardot had rejected all modesty coverings because she claimed they ruined her silhouette. Cinema would never be the same again.

The DVD is a tad hot and de-saturated, but worth it for BB at her cutest and for Bogarde’s expression when his character realizes there is a nude woman behind the shower-curtain in his cabin – a camp classic.

* * *

click to buy “Les Grandes Manœuvres” at Amazon.co.ukLes Grandes Manœuvres (Grand Manœuvres, René Clair, 1955)
aka Summer of Manœuvres (UK)

DVD: C’est La Vie (UK). DVD title: Les Grandes Manœuvres. Language: French. Subtitles: English. Ratio: 4:3. Length: 1:43:03. Colour. Extras: American television documentary on BB, “Entr’acte”, biographies, stills gallery, alternative ending, BB trailers.

This stylish film from René Clair, set in the days before World War I, is about officers at a Versailles garrison spending every waking second obsessed with seducing as many women as possible. Unintentionally, the film may explain the quick collapse of the Maginot Line!

Bardot has a supporting role as a gorgeous young thing pursed by a not so gorgeous old thing (Yves Robert). But the film belongs to the devilishly handsome Gérard Philipe, closely followed by Michèle Morgan, then of a certain age.

For film historians, it is also provides definitive evidence of the evolution of the décor delights of Jacques Demy’s Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1964).

The DVD is utterly superb, with excellent sound and image. The inclusion of an alternative ending is certainly an unusual extra for the DVD of 51-year-old film. As for the bonus documentary, it is standard American television fluff, but has shots from rarely seen Bardot films and is packed with amusing and informative trailers.

PB: It is a great pleasure to see “manœuvres” correctly spelt in the title. Standards must have been higher back then.

* * *

La Lumière d’en face (The Light Opposite, Georges Lacombe, 1955)
aka The Light Across the Street (UK), Female and Flesh (US)

Unavailable on DVD, this crucial film in the development of the BB screen persona can be viewed on an unsubtitled VHS from René Château.

BB plays the young wife of a former truck driver forbidden any physical excitement after a traumatic road accident. She soon notices a handsome stranger staying across the street.

Apart from the wife changing her clothes (back to camera), exposing her naked breasts to warm sunlight and swimming naked in the local river, it is BB’s portrayal of unrequited sexual desire that marks this as a landmark film. It is forgotten only in that it does not fit the press legend of Vadim as the sole manipulator of BB’s developing legend. The fact is Vadim borrowed far more of this film in Et Dieu … créa la femme than he ever acknowledged or critics ever noticed.

Only a DVD release can bring Georges Lacombe’s fascinating and intense melodrama back into the limelight it deserves.

* * *

click to buy “Naughty Girl” at Amazon.comCette Sacrée Gamine: Melle Pigalle (That Crazy Kid: Mademoiselle Pigalle, Michel Boisrond, 1956)
aka Mam’zelle Pigalle (UK), That Naughty Girl: Mam’zelle Pigalle (US). !Dichosa Muchacha! (Mexico)

DVD: Anchor Bay (US). DVD title: That Naughty Girl. Language: French. Subtitles: English. Ratio: 2.35:1. Length: 1:24:13. Colour. Extras: brief written BB biog, trailer.

Roger Vadim had been working overtime to get the right projects for Bardot, to help project what he saw as her correct image. As such, Cette Sacrée Gamine is not a bad effort.

Co-written by Vadim (who uses just his surname, as if a trademark) with director Michel Boisrond, it represents the first time a role was written specifically for Bardot. It also gathers many of the aspects that would become iconic in her career: wild car driving, walking round in sexy bikinis and red bath-towels, dancing, a cheeky and fluffy tone.

In a typically convoluted set-up, schoolgirl Brigitte (BB), daughter of the owner a (rather daggy) Parisian nightclub, has to be kept out of sight while the police investigate some counterfeit money. That Brigitte’s father should chose as her chaperone the heartthrob lead singer at the nightclub (Jean Bretonnière) beggars belief, but who cares.

Most interesting, apart from the bizarre scene of BB dancing in a gaol, is the Jean Negulesco-like dream sequence in the middle, where the singer imagines Brigitte in all manner of lavish dance routines. It could be Daddy Long Legs, released not long before shooting began.

PB: The opening title is Cette Sacrée Gamine, with the subtitle Melle Pigalle. I guess they just forgot the apostrophe in M’elle – shades of the infamous Australian classic, Luigis Ladies (Judy Morris, 1989). The French poster has it as Cette Sacrée Gamine … Mademoiselle Pigalle.

* * *

Mio Figlio Nerone (My Son Nero, Steno, 1956)
aka Les Week-ends de Néron (Fr), Nero’s Weekend (UK), Nero’s Mistress (US)

DVD: L.C.J. (Fr). DVD title: Les Week-ends de Néron. Length: 1:26.03. Claimed ratio: 2.35:1 (but closer to 1.85:1). Colour. Subtitles: no. Extras: basic filmographies, gallery of frame enlargements (called a “diaporama”), bonus film quiz.

It has long been said that one should beware any film directed by someone with only one name. This is no exception. (Of course, even worse is a film directed by someone with just initials. Remember the two Charlie’s Angels films directed by McG?)

In this film directed by Steno, BB plays the gorgeous Poppea, mistress of the great and totally demented Nero (Alberto Sordi). Poppea’s iconic moment comes when she takes a bath. Thousands of column inches have been expended on what actually went into the bath, ranging from water mixed with chalk (the director’s first option) to cow’s milk (which curdled) to the historically correct asses’ milk (at Vadim’s insistence, apparently). No that it matters: the scene is too short and unerotic to deserve further attention.

BB also does a brief dance, but that, too, is without note. The fact is, in this Italian terror of a toga movie (why did they make so many … or indeed any?), BB has little to do. It is a bizarre backward step in an otherwise accelerating career of mainstream comedienne.

Film buffs may be interested to know (but probably do already) that Mario Bava was in charge of special photographic effects. Fans should delete it from his filmography, out of respect.

* * *

click to buy “Plucking the Daisy” at Amazon.comEn Effeuillant la Marguerite (Plucking the Daisy, Marc Allégret, 1956)
aka Mam’selle Striptease (UK), Mademoiselle Striptease (US), Please Mr Balzac (US), Miss Spogliarello (Italy), Das Ganseblumchen wird entblättert (Germany), Deshojando la Margarita (Argentina)

DVD: HVe-Janus Films (US). DVD title: Plucking the Daisy. Language: French. Subtitles: English. Ratio: 4:3. Length: 1:41:42. Black and white. Extras: BB trailers (including En Effeuillant).

After the Mio Figlio Nerone non-event, BB is back at her gorgeous best as Agnès Dumont in the frivolous and funny romp. Scripted by Roger Vadim (his name back in full) and director Marc Allégret, it concerns the daughter of a Vichy-based general who is forced to leave town after writing a scandalous roman à clef. She ends up at the Balzac Museum in Paris, thinking it is her brother’s house. Desperate for cash, she flogs a Balzac first-edition, is caught out and has to make some cash fast. She enters a striptease contest, while hiding her identity from the roué journalist she has fallen for (played by Daniel Gélin, close friend of the Plémiannikovs).

In the crunch, the film is bizarrely coy. After the preceding contestant strips to absolutely nothing (apart from a flesh-coloured merkin), Agnès comes out and strips to … well, who would know? The cinema audience, as opposed to the punters at the contest, see absolutely nothing. Did something get cut or was this a total failure of nerve – not from Bardot, naturally, but from her male Svengalis?

That aside, this is a glorious re-release with the DVD looking utterly splendid.

Note: There is a much used publicity still of BB in hot pants and bra made of daisies, but such an outfit (thankfully) never appears in the movie.

PB: The opening screen title is En Enfeuillant la followed by a drawing of a little female creature wearing a ruff collar made up of daisies (marguerites). At the end, the traditional version of the title appears.

* * *

Et Dieu … créa la femme (And God …. Created Woman, R. Vadim, 1956)
aka And Woman … Was Created (UK), … And God Created Woman (US), Piace a Troppi (Italy), Und Immer lockt das Weib (Germany), … Y Dios Creó a la Mujer (Argentina)

DVD: Criterion (US). DVD title: … And God Created Woman. Language: French. Subtitles: English. Ratio: 2.35:1. Length: 1:31:27. Colour. Extras: trailer.

After years writing scripts for Bardot and charming friends and foes into casting her, R. Vadim (as he signs himself here) finally came up with an idea for their first film together. While in Rome, at the Casa del Orso, Bardot meet an Italian guitarist. Vadim:

She remained on the dance floor for more than two hours. It was then I remembered an unusual story I had read in the papers about the trial of a young girl who had been the mistress of three brothers, one after the other. She killed one of them. […] In a flash of inspiration I had found the subject of my film for Brigitte. I asked for some paper and for the rest of the evening I took notes. (5)

Knowing Bardot was about to begin an affaire with the guitarist (in his autobiographies, Vadim graciously points out he had already betrayed the marriage), Vadim left BB in Rome and drove 20 hours straight to Paris, where he found producer Raoul Lévy at Fouquet’s on the Champs-Elysées. The deal was done and the future of cinema forever altered.

click to buy “… And God Created Woman” at Amazon.comWhile Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mépris is unquestionably the finest film BB ever made, there is little doubt that Et Dieu … créa la femme is the most cinematically important. Not only is it one of the most crucial motivators of the Nouvelle Vague (Et Dieu … was released in 1956), BB’s characterization and performance profoundly changed the perception of how women could be portrayed on screen.

It is hard to imagine at this distance the furore this film caused, but as late as the mid-1990s, at a dinner party in Versailles, a group of bourgeois ladies (including a beloved aunt) were still upset about Bardot and the film. Under polite questioning, they finally revealed it was not the nudity or sex that upset, or even the actress’ off-screen affairs (Bardot dumped husband Vadim mid-shoot for lead actor Jean-Louis Trintignant, revenge no doubt for a film conceiving a film during a moment of observed infidelity!), but the fact that her character walked around in bare feet! Le horreur, le horreur!

There are lots of DVDs of this classic available, but anyone with the available coin tends to opt for the Criterion. But it is a staggeringly frugal issue for Criterion: a theatrical trailer and a brief restoration demonstration. For a film of such historic importance, is this really acceptable? Where, for example, are all the scenes and shots cut before its French release? Why is there no discussion about that?

The image, too, is only okay, over-saturated and not that sharp. But as the HVe-Janus Films DVD of Vadim’s Les Bijoutiers de clair de lune (made one year later) looks much the same, it may just indicate the quality of French negatives and release prints of those days. However, the version SBS shows on television in Australia looks lighter and sharper, as does (from memory) the French DVD from René Château.

The jury is still out on which DVD to buy until someone releases a version the film deserves.

Of course, most French critics wished Vadim and this film never existed. Jean Douchet writes in his generally excellent French New Wave:

Vadim’s fame as a director is due more to his character than his films, which are now seen as sophisticated, frivolous, dull, and hopelessly out of fashion. (6)

What a bitch! (7)

Jean-Luc Godard, as usual, was the one who got it right:

Roger Vadim is ‘with it’. Agreed. His colleagues, for the most part, are still missing the point. Also agreed. But one shouldn’t admire Vadim simply because he does naturally what should long ago have been the ABC of the French cinema. What could be more natural, really, than to ‘breathe the air of today’? […] So it is pointless to compliment Vadim on being ahead of his time, because all that has happened is that everyone else is behind while he is up to date. (8)

Godard also calls Vadim “the best of the young French directors working today” and predicted he would become a great director, which became incontrovertibly true with Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1959).

* * *

La Mariée est trop belle (The Bride is Too Beautiful, Pierre Gaspard-Huit, 1956)
aka The Bride is Much Too Beautiful (US), Her Bridal Night (US), La Sposa Troppo Bella (Italy)

DVD: Delta (UK). DVD title: Her Bridal Night. Language: English (dubbed). Ratio: 4:3. Length: 1:29:48. Black and white. Extras: introduction and postscript by Tony Curtis, Viva Maria! trailer.

This is a return to the pre-Et Dieu … créa la femme Bardot-as-mainstream-comedienne. In part, BB had no choice as she was already contracted for two more fluffy comedies (this and Une Parisienne). Vadim was preparing Sait-on jamais …. Vadim had wanted Bardot in the lead, but she couldn’t break her contract, so he chose Françoise Arnoul, whom BB had replaced as the French star and who appears, ever so graciously, as a walk-on in En Enfeuillant la Marguerite.

The Bride is Too Beautiful

Here, BB plays Chouchou, an haute bourgeoise girl from the provinces who is turned by chance into a top Paris model. To help create even more publicity, Chouchou is then ordered to have a pretend marriage to a fellow model, Patrice (Jean-François Calvé), but falls instead for Michel (Louis Jourdan). Happiness prevails after an extraordinary scene of Chouchou running around the grounds of a chateau at night in a negligée, in a superb sequence that eerily prefigures Vadim’s Et Mourir de Plaisir, four years later. In a revenge on the ‘immorality’ of Et Dieu …, La Mariée ends with a real marriage.

So as no one will get confused as to whether Chouchou likes Patrice or Michel best, the producers cast as the loser Jean-François Calvé, who had generated absolutely no chemistry with Bardot when they had earlier starred together in Manina … la fille sans voile. As for Louis Jourdan, he and BB look just fine.

Journalist-critic Ivon Adams wrote in Star:

First shot […] shows her in a white bridal gown. The last shot shows her in the same attire. For most of the time in between, she wanders around in a nightgown looking for a bridegroom. (9)

Viewers of the American DVD will be confused by this, because the DVD opens with Chouchou walking to a table at an outdoor café; she doesn’t put on a bridal gown until the 44-minute-30-second mark! That is because the first 2 minutes 15 seconds (featuring a wedding) have been arbitrarily deleted. (The DVD also cuts the famous sequence where Chouchou is dressed in a raincoat and has water poured over her head from a watering can.)

But Ivon Adams is wrong is saying BB is almost always in a nightgown; Chouchou does so in only one scene (the fourth last).

Adams’ inaccuracy stems, in part, from a puritanical phenomenon that developed after the scandal of Et Dieu … créa la femme: critics (especially Anglo-Celt) began imagining sexual images and situations that just don’t occur. They also started deliberately overpraising the ‘innocent’ BB films, like this one, as if trying to direct audiences away from the Lacombe and Vadim excesses towards a Bardot persona with which they felt safer.

As for the DVD itself, it is a disgrace, hideously dubbed and taken from a lousy television copy. The VHS from Film-à-film (France) is infinitely superior, running 5 minutes longer and spoken in French (albeit with no subtitles). It also doesn’t have the introduction by Tony Curtis, who looks utterly miserable.

PB: The French title given above is taken from the French VHS, as the DVD has an altered credit sequence with a cut-in English title.

* * *

Une Parisienne (Michel Boisrond, 1957)
aka Die Parisienne (Germany), Una Parisina (Spain), En akta Parisiska (Sweden)

DVD: C’est la Vie (UK). Language: French. Subtitles: English. Ratio: 4:3. Length: 1:21:18. Colour. Extras: Hollywood Remembers documentary, BB trailers (including Une Parisienne), stills gallery.

Brigitte Laurier (BB), daughter of the Président de France, is lovesick for Michel (Henri Vidal), the Cabinet Chief and a shameless womaniser. Abruptly married to Michel, and equally quickly angered by his affaires, Brigitte sets her sights on the visiting Prince Charles (Charles Boyer).

click to buy “Une Parisienne” at Amazon.co.ukBardot is in supreme form, glowing with golden hair and in tight dresses and holding her own against a charming Boyer. The film is an utter trifle, but fans of BB adore it. If only some diligent researcher would get to work and find the bits snipped by the censors; the cuts in the print (and DVD) are all too noticeable and extremely annoying.

Viewers of the DVD have yet another concern: at the start, there is 52 seconds of music over a black screen, before cutting to an opening credit as Brigitte drives down the Champs-Elysées, away from the Arc de Triomphe. Actually, this is not pre-credit music: the first six shots of the film are missing visually, as if some forgot to flick the switch in time.

For those interested, there is a long pan over the rooftops of Paris to the Champs-Elysées. There is a lovely tracking shot of Miss Brigitte driving at speed. Then a head-on shot as Brigitte drives away from the Arc; she exits screen left and there is a sound of screeching breaks. Cut to a policeman looking stern. CU of BB as she smiles back. Back to policeman, who melts of course; he waves her through. In other words, here is yet another sequence showing BB as the darling terror of French roads.

Apart from the inexcusable blackout, the DVD is notable for its clean and bright image. The film seems too short at 81 minutes; according to most sources, the film was released at 87 mins, but 81 is the length as the French VHS. So, the film must have been chopped back after release and no one has bothered to put the missing bits back.

PB: There is considerable confusion over the title. Many books and the American trailer give the title as La Parisienne, which also appears on the cover of one French DVD release. But the film is definitely Une.

* * *

Les Bijoutiers du clair de lune (Jewellers of Moonlight, Roger Vadim, 1957)
aka The Night Heaven Fell (US), Heaven Fell that Night (UK), Armas de Mujer (Mexico)

DVD: HVe-Janus Films (US). DVD title: The Night Heaven Fell. Language: French (and a little Spanish). Subtitles: English. Ratio: 2.35:1. Length: 1:31:17. Colour. Extras: BB trailers (including Le Bijoutiers).

Separated for nearly two years, but still legally married, Bardot and Vadim re-teamed for this over-heated Spanish melodrama.

click to buy “The Night Heaven Fell” at Amazon.comFinally liberated from her convent school, the virginal Ursula (BB) goes to live with her guardians, Aunt Florentine (Alida Valli) and Uncle Ribera (Pépé Nieto). Apart from their obvious dysfunctionality, Florentine is sexually frustrated and Ribera as vile as can be. When Lambert (Stephen Boyd), the brother of one of his sexual victims, comes to seek revenge, all hell breaks loose.

The drama is very erratic and Bardot is way too old (23 at the time) to convincingly play a virginal schoolgirl. The ending is dreadful and regressive after the liberating Et Dieu … créa la femme.

Vadim also directs several scenes as if he doesn’t really care. Philippe Brun, one of France’s most highly regarded camera operators (he worked with Alain Resnais, Georges Franju, Luis Bunuel, Bertrand Tavernier, et al), told this author that Vadim was the most naturally talented director he ever worked with, but that he could also be lazy and easily distracted. Parts of Les Bijoutiers prove the point.

That said, it is always spectacular to look at (Vadim has a near infallible sense of composition and colour) and BB looks magnifique. There is little spark with Stephen Boyd, but that is common to almost all Boyd’s films, with the obvious exception of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (William Wyler, 1959), where sparks do fly between his Messala and Charlton Heston’s Judah Ben-Hur. In Boyd’s defence here, Lambert’s true mate is Florentine, not Ursula.

Needless to say the critics despised the film (as they do all Vadim). “A dull little essay in film pornography”, wrote Phillip Oakes. If only Oakes knew what lay ahead, he might not have been so quick in his put-down. But the cake for silliness goes to Richard Roud, who wrote, “The story is gratuitous.” Only an Alain Robbe-Grillet or Umberto Ecco would have any chance at deciphering what is behind that inane claim.

As for the HVe DVD of Les Bijoutiers, which is after all why we are here, it has the same slight over-ripeness as the Criterion DVD of Et Dieu … créa la femme. But with its bold CinemaScope, vivid colours, stunning locations, cheeky erotic scenes (the fake nude shower and the slipping black shawl are superb), this is a feast for the eyes. Disappointingly, there are no DVD extras of note, which is usual with Vadim releases.

* * *

En Cas de Malheur (In Case of Adversity, Claude Autant-Lara, 1957)
aka Love is My Profession (UK), Mit Waffen einer Frau (Germany), Amor Prohibido (Mexico)

DVD: René Château (France). DVD title: En Cas de Malheur. Language: French. Subtitles: English. Ratio: 4:3. Length: 1:57:06. Black and white. Extras: the censored scene, a collage of posters of the collaboration between Jean Gabin and Georges Simenon, stills gallery, Gabin trailers (including En Cas), extract from La Lumière d’en Face.

Claude Autant-Lara’s adaptation of the Georges Simenon novel is very fine indeed. Jean Gabin is at his splendid, charismatic best as André Maudet, a top Parisian lawyer who puts all at risk defending a street-girl, Yvette (Bardot), on robbery charges. Without money to pay, she offers herself.

En Cas de Malheur

The scene where she does so is one of the most controversial in French cinema. On 17 September 1958, the French censors removed a few frames from the shot of Yvette lifting her skirt in front of André and he looking exactly where you would expect him to. (One can hear an excited Georges Bataille shuffling in the wings.) When René Château released the VHS of the film, they found the missing frames and re-inserted them into the original shot. Strangely, the DVD has not taken the same wise course, adding them only as a supplement.

The DVD itself is magnificent; rarely has black and white (shot by Jacques Natteau) looked more radiant. The same goes for Bardot, who is obviously inspired playing opposite Gabin, then and now a true French icon. It is bizarre that they did not make another film together; they are simply perfect.

Equally bizarre is that the DVD cover claims only to have French subtitles (for the hearing impaired), but there are English ones as well. (This same anomaly crops up on the French DVD double-bill of Claude Chabrol’s La Femme Infidèle (1969) and Le Boucher (1970). It is often worth ignoring what a DVD cover says and taking the risk.)

* * *

La Femme et le pantin (The Woman and the Puppet, Julien Duvivier, 1958)
aka A Woman Like Satan (UK), Ein Weib wie der Satan (Germany), The Female (US)

DVD: Édition WDA (France). DVD title: La Femme et le pantin. Language: French. Subtitles: no. Ratio: 2.35:1. Length: 1:37:31. Colour. Extras: BB bio.

Less than nine months after Les Bijoutiers du clair de lune, BB was back in Spain for Julien Duvivier’s La Femme et le pantin.

Here, BB is Eva, a virginal flamenco student who catches the eye of a wealthy (and married) breeder of bulls (Antonio Vilar). Only after Eva succeeds in bringing him down to size does she consent to become his mistress.

The script is based on a Pierre Louÿs novel, which had already been filmed several times, most notably by Josef von Sternberg as The Devil is a Woman (1935), starring Marlene Dietrich. Luis Buñuel would later do a fascinating version, Cet Obscur objet du désir (1977).

La Femme et le pantin, though, is not a Bardot classic; it is directionless, with no stand-out scenes, except for the infamous naked-beneath-the-shawl dance. Bardot seems a bit listless and her character a rather sour and unappealing exploiter of men. There is no sense, as in some of collaborations with Vadim, of a feminist perspective at work.

The only known DVD is the French release from Édition WDA, without English subtitles. (When will the French abandon their hatred of the Anglicisation of the planet and start releasing their DVDs with subtitles, and therefore no longer forcing non-linguistically-adept lovers of French cinema to buy them from the US and UK?)

The DVD image is good, without being remarkable; at least it is close to the original 2.35:1 ratio. There are no extras save a brief BB bio.

* * *

Du Côté de la Côte (From the Side of the Coast, Agnès Varda, short, 1958)

DVD: Warner Bros. (US). DVD title: Short: International Release. Language: French. Subtitles: no. Ratio: 4:3. Length: 25:42 (“Du Côté”). Colour. Extras: production notes.

In Agnès Varda’s witty and poetic celebration of the Côte d’Azur, Bardot is seen in just two shots (black-and-white footage tinted orange-red).

Several feminist critics have claimed that not only does this documentary collage prefigure Le Mépris, but that Jean-Luc Godard ripped it off. Perhaps this arrant nonsense was inspired by the fact Varda dedicates her film to André Bazin and Godard quotes from him at the start of his; perhaps it is because Georges Delerue wrote the music for both; perhaps it is because Godard put Du Côté in his Top Ten films of 1959; who knows.

The trouble with such critical libel is that it deflects from the fact that this documentary is a priceless gem, a masterwork on every level and arguably the greatest example of cinéma féminine ever made. Agnès Varda is unquestionably the greatest ever woman filmmaker. (Back to your seats all you Akermannites!)

The DVD looks glorious, but sadly there are no subtitles because Varda refuses to approve them, even for festival screenings. All the same, this DVD is a must for every cinéaste’s collection.

* * *

Babette s’en va-t-en guerre (Babette Goes to War, Christian Jacque, 1959)
aka Babette va alla Guerra (Italy), Babette Goes to War (US)

DVD: René Château (France). DVD title: Babette s’en va-t-en guerre. Language: French. Subtitles: no. Ratio: 1.66:1. Length: 1:39:06. Colour. Extras: none.

Babette (BB) arrives to work at a Dunkirk bordello, only to discover everyone is fleeing the German advance. The madame takes pity on her (“I’m not nice, I’m French!”) and off on a small boat across the Channel they go. In London, Babette falls for a Free French Officer (Jacques Charrier, for whom Bardot would soon leave singer Sacha Distel) and soon Babette is parachuted back to France on a spy mission.

Directed by Christian Jacque (no hyphen this time), this fluff appealed to those who prefer a chaste BB (“This is my first sexless film”, Bardot said). Others may think it a waste of BB in a role countless French actresses could have filled equally well.

This is a truly bargain-basement DVD; there isn’t even any chapter authoring. The colour is dark and a bit weird, but may represent what the film looked like on release.

There are no English subtitles, just a few burnt-in French ones when German or English is spoken.

* * *

click to buy “Come Dance with Me” at Amazon.comVoulez-vous danser avec moi (Do You Want to Dance With Me, Michel Boisrond, 1959)
aka Come Dance with Me (UK, US), Sexy Girl (Italy), Vil du Danse med mig? (Denmark)

DVD: Anchor Bay (US). DVD title: Voulez-vous danser avec moi. Language: French. Subtitles: English. Ratio: 1.66:1. Length: 1:31:00. Colour. Extras: bio of BB.

Many critics and fans of BB like the three films directed by Michel Boisrond best: this, Cette Sacrée Gamine and Une Parisienne. Not surprisingly, they are among the least sexy, BB’s characters confident but in no way liberated or wild. She is slightly ditzy in all and happy marriages are all her characters are really after. In other words, they are safe films, easy to admire without being troubled by the feminist undertones of BB’s bolder works.

Virginie (BB) quickly charms a handsome dentist (Henri Vidal), marries him and then has to turn detective when she finds him standing over the dead body of a dancing instructress (Dawn Addams).

It is mildly amusing fun, with BB looking radiant and dancing several times (she’s very cute in the Mambo). She also sparks with Vidal, as in Une Parisienne; it is one of the finest screening pairings of BB’s career. Sadly, Vidal died soon after filming.

What critics also like about Voulez-vous is the world of BB films has opened up, involving here gays and transvestites. However the choice of bad guy would be an anathema to puritans like Robin Wood, who argue that no member of a minority group should ever be portrayed as a villain. (10)

There is, of course, the added bonus of Serge Gainsbourg in a small role.

The DVD looks pretty good, but is annoyingly basic. Chapter skipping doesn’t work and the menu only comes up after the film is finished. Still, the DVD is good enough to be in any fan’s collection.

PB: There is no question mark in the title, continuing the long tradition of film titles being written by the illiterate. (Clive Donner’s 1965 What’s New Pussycat is another infamous example.)

* * *

L’Affaire d’une nuit (The Affair of One Night, Henri Verneuil, 1960)
aka It Happened at Night

Unavailable.

* * *

La Vérité (The Truth, Georges Henri-Clouzot, 1960)
aka The Truth (UK, US), La Verita’ (Italy), Die Wahreit (Germany)

Unavailable.
This is probably the third most important film BB ever made (after Et Dieu … and Le Mépris), but sadly it is not on DVD. There is an unsubtitled VHS from René Château.

* * *

click to buy “Please, Not Now!” at Amazon.comLa Bride sur le cou (The Bride Around the Neck, Roger Vadim, 1961)
aka Please, Not Now! (UK), In Freiheit Dressiert (Germany), Only for Love (US), Solamente por Amor (Argentina)

DVD: Anchor Bay (US). DVD title: Please Not Now!. Language: French. Subtitles: English. Ratio: 2.35:1. Length: 1:29:18. Black and white. Extras: trailer, bio of BB.

After recovering from a suicide attempt, Bardot felt like a lightweight comedy in the Michel Boisrond style. She opted for La Bride sur le cou and director Jean Aurel, who had co-scripted Une Parisienne. But a few days into the shoot she fired Aurel and called up Roger Vadim to help out. For contractual reasons, he only gets a “direction artistique” credit.

Sophie (BB), a photographic model, is in strife because her photographer lover, Philippe (Jacques Riberolles), has left for winter sports with an American heiress, Barbara (Joséphine James). Sophie decides to get back at him, or get him back, by arriving at the hotel with a pretend lover, Alain (Michel Subor).

The snow sequences were shot at a famous hotel overlooking Grenoble. Now sadly demolished, it was once a hotbed of Parisian show business folk, including Gérard Philipe and the Vadim set. (The Mont-Blanc in Mégève was their main locale, but everyone needs variety.)

Vadim is a supreme master at filming in the snow (cf Les Liaisons Dangereuses) and this film looks utterly ravishing. The comedy maybe a little wet, but it does have the BB dream dance (uncut on DVD) that caused male cardiac arrest around the world. And BB isn’t even naked!

Critics have overrated almost ever postmodern moment ever put on the cinema screen (you recognize something, you dash home and rave about it), but entirely missed what may the absolute crème de la crème. In the last shot of La Bride, Sophie makes a snowball and tosses it at the camera, screaming, “No photographers!” And there are people out there who don’t like Vadim!

This DVD is a joy.

* * *

Les Amours Célèbres (Famous Lovers, 1961); episode “Agnès Breauer” (Michel Boisrond)
aka Amori Celebri (Italy), Galande Liebesgeschichten (Germany)

Unavailable.
The first of the only two teamed screen outings by Bardot and Alain Delon, two of cinema’s most exquisitely handsome stars.

* * *

Vie Privée (Private Life, Louis Malle, 1961)
aka A Very Private Affair (US, UK), Vida Privada (Spain)

Unavailable.

Another crucial film in the Bardot œuvre (and the most autobiographical) and still not released on DVD. There is an unsubtitled VHS from René Château.

* * *

Le Répos du Guerrier (Warrior’s Rest, Roger Vadim, 1962)
aka Il Riposo del Guerriero (Italy), Das Ruhekissen (Germany), Love on a Pillow (US)

The American DVD has not been sighted, but internet scribes describe it as one of the lousiest ever to be sold to an unsuspecting public. (That doesn’t stop some people charging more than US$300 for it on eBay.)

While awaiting a proper DVD, a full-screen American VHS may suffice, a tragedy given this is one of Bardot and Vadim’s three greatest collaborations and probably the director’s most Russian film.

* * *

Le Mépris (Contempt, Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)
aka Contempt (US)

DVDs: Criterion (US), Les Films de ma Vie (France). DVD titles: Contempt (US), Le Mépris (France). Languages: French and English. Subtitles: English (US). Ratio: 2.35:1. Length: 1:43:26 (US), 1:37:17 (France). Colour. Extras: audio commentary from Robert Stam, The Dinosaur and the Baby (filmed 60-minute discussion between Fritz Lang and JLG), Encounter with Fritz Lang (short), Bardot JLGodard Bard: Le Méprise (short), Paparazzi (short), an interview with JLG (excerpt from Cinepanorama), an interview with DOP Raoul Coutard, trailer (US); biographies, trailer, critiques (France).

It is hard to believe now that Bardot’s and Godard’s masterpiece was derided on release and those who defended it ridiculed. Today everyone talks about the film as if it was universally perceived as a masterpiece from the start. Where were these people when they were needed four decades back? Turncoats! Hypocrites!

click to buy “Contempt” at Amazon.comThere has been so much written on this film (especially after its re-evaluation), much on whether Godard sold out by agreeing to producer Carlo Ponti’s demand for some nude scenes after seeing the fine-cut. The fact remains that the added post-credits scene of Camille (BB) and Paul Javal (Piccoli) on the bed is one of the finest in Godard, the most precise of his countless delineations of the pathetic sexual jousts and misunderstandings between men and women. After Camille asks whether Paul likes her hair, her face, her eyes, her bottom, et al, she remarks: “Then you love me totally.” It is one of the saddest and most heartbreaking moments in cinema. Godard is a genius; it’s as simple as that.

As for BB, she has never been better. Anyone who every thought she was not capable of greatness as an actress, Le Mépris buries that misconception for ever.

Apart from annoyance at Criterion’s use of the American title (does anyone know anyone who doesn’t refer to it as Le Mépris?), there is little to complain about with this superb 2-DVD release. (This author’s copy came with a damaged Disc One, but that is presumably just bad luck.)

Among the many extras, there is a spectacularly charming and witty Godard being interviewed (in 16mm black and white) by an appallingly misogynistic and puritanical Frenchman. He attempts to portray BB as a tart for appearing nude and to denounce Godard for agreeing to the added nude scenes, but Godard makes mince-meat of him, while smiling like a mischievous angel.

The French DVD is not really an alternative: the colour isn’t a patch on the Criterion; it is shorter, missing those divine montages intercut with shots of Camille walking about at the villa of Jeremy Prokosch (Jack Palance); and there are no subtitles.

* * *

Bardot JLGodard Bard: Le Mépris (Jacques Rozier, documentary, 1963)

DVD: Criterion (US). DVD title: Contempt. Language: French. Subtitles: English. Length: 9:28. Ratio: 4:3. Black and white. Extras: none.

Included on Disc Two of the Criterion DVD of Le Mépris, this fascinating doco is essential viewing for all true BB (and JLG) believers. It opens with JLG leading BB (in bikini and white hat) and Michel Piccoli up the steps to the roof of the Villa Malaparte on the island of Capri. It may well be the sexiest moving image of BB ever recorded (and, heaven knows, there are more than a few to choose from).

Though grainy and scratched, Jacques Rozier’s 16mm record of the filming of Le Mépris (like Paparazzi, below) is an invaluable record of one of the most fortuitous moments in cinema. The gods truly did smile down on Rome and Capri in 1963.

Though Criterion rightly lays claim to being the world’s finest producer of high-quality DVDs, it is sometimes too free and easy with titles. The Disc Two menu refers to this as “Le Parti des Choses: Bardot et Godard”, but the film itself clearly has the title given above. The witty pun on Bardot/Bard/Shakespeare parallels the divine puns in Le Mépris of BB/BéBé/Brigitte Bardot/Bertold Brecht.

NB: This appears to be the only Rozier film available on DVD. It’s astonishing that the director of a masterpiece such as Adieu Philippine (1960-3) is currently reduced to such a footnote, however admirable.

* * *

Paparazzi (Jacques Rozier, documentary, 1963)

DVD: Criterion (US). DVD title: Contempt. Language: French. Subtitles: English. Length: 17:48. Ratio: 4:3. Black and white. Extras: none.

Also included on Disc Two of the Criterion DVD of Le Mépris, this is an equally fascinating record of the filming of Le Mépris, even if a lesser film overall. It is spoiled by a strident tone directed at the paparazzi (emotionally justified but not cinematically) and the voice-over isn’t as poetic or as incisive. But it is still one of the great Criterion added extras. There are close-ups of BB that make the heart sing.

* * *

Tentazioni Proibite (F. Oswaldo Civirani, short doco, 1963)

Unavailable.

* * *

Une Ravissante idiote

Une Ravissante idiote (A Ravishing Idiot, Eduardo Molinaro, 1963)
aka Agent 38-24-26! (US)

DVD: Blackhorse Entertainment (UK). DVD title: A Ravishing Idiot. Language: French. Subtitles: English (burnt-in). Ratio: 1.66:1. Length: 1:42:59. Black and white. Extras: none.

Everyone’s first choice as an actor to play a Russian spy, Anthony Perkins, plays Nicholas Mukouline, in London to steal documents from the Admiralty. But he falls for Penelope Lightfeather (BB) and all plans go awry.

The DVD is rather poor, the image soft and the burnt-in subtitles a disgusting yellow-green. They completely ruin the look of the black-and-white photography, which, given it was done by Andreas Winding, probably looks pretty good on an original print.

There is an (unsighted) US DVD, but internet reviews do not suggest it is an improvement.

* * *

Marie Soleil (Antoine Boursellier, 1964)

Unavailable.

* * *

Dear Brigitte (Henry Koster, 1964)
aka Chère Brigitte (France)

Unavailable.

Dear Brigitte’s title is like the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question: name the film that starred Bardot and James Stewart. Or, even harder: the one with BB and Glynis Johns!

There is American VHS floating around.

* * *

click to buy “Viva Maria!” at Amazon.comViva Maria! (Louis Malle, 1965)
DVD: MGM (US). Language: French. Subtitles: English. Ratio: 2.35:1. Length: 1:56:23. Colour. Extra: trailer.

Viva Maria! is a whimsical comedy about IRA terrorists and the birth of striptease (yes, that’s the plot!), where BB stars opposite her then rival for French Goddess status, Jeanne Moreau. Many male critics took umbrage at the absence of conflict between the actors’ on-screen characters, perhaps unable to cope with the concept of a female buddy movie; they preferred women to be bitchy and untrustworthy.

But Malle always admired and adored women, and his films are testimony to their strength. With barely the flutter of an eyelid, the two Marias depose of a ruthless landowner, a vertically challenged dictator and countless troops.

This ravishingly beautiful film is gloriously presented on this heavenly DVD.

* * *

Masculin Féminin: 15 faits précis (Masculin Feminine: 15 Precise Facts, Jean-Luc Godard, 1965)
DVD: Nouveaux Pictures (UK). DVD title: Masculin-Feminine. Language: French. Subtitles: English. Ratio: 4.3:1. Length: 1:39:57. Black and white. Extras: stills gallery (10; none of BB).

A radiant BB appears on screen for only 81 seconds in a café scene, where she plays an actress being taught her lines from a play (The Marvels) by the producer/director.

Digitally remastered from a restored print (thank you, Argos Films), the DVD is razor-sharp, capturing all the grain of one of Godard’s grainiest films. In many ways, this is a throwback to early Godard, or a deconstruction, if you prefer. Either way, it is a must-have DVD.

* * *

A Coeur Joie (Heartful of Joy, Serge Bourguignon, 1966)
aka Two Weeks in September (UK, US), Naar Harte-Lust (Belgium), Bara Kvinna (Denmark)

Unavailable.

There is an American VHS.

* * *

click to buy “Spirits of the Dead” at Amazon.comHistoires Extraordinaires d’après Edgar Allan Poe (Extraordinary Stories According to Edgar Allan Poe, 1967); episode “William Wilson” (Louis Malle)
aka Tre Passi nel Delirio (Italy), Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe (US), Spirits of the Dead (US), Historias Extraordinarias (Mexico)

DVD: HVe (US). DVD title: Spirits of the Dead. Language: French. Subtitles: English. Ratio: 1.75:1. Length: 37:04 (“William Wilson”). Colour. Extras: none.

From childhood, William Wilson (Alain Delon) is pursued by his double. When he is about to slice open a naked live blonde at a pretend autopsy, the doppelgänger arrives the crucial moment to intervene. Likewise, after a card game with Giuseppina (Brigitte Bardot), Wilson is interrupted while exploiting his unearned victory by whipping Giuseppina’s naked back. Clearly Wilson has a problem with women and not only with himself.

What is astonishing is that director Louis Malle undermines this rare and historic on-screen pairing of the exquisitely gorgeous Delon and Bardot by putting her in a hideous black wig. What was he thinking? What was he drinking?

That said, the card game between Wilson and Giuseppina is riveting, the episode well directed by Malle and handsomely shot by Tonino Delli Colli.

The DVD is a beautiful 1.75:1 digital transfer, enhanced for 16:9 televisions. One can complain about little, except for a lack of extras and, as with every print sighted, no opening title for Roger Vadim’s episode (on the end credits it is referred to as “Metzengerstein”).

* * *

Edward Dymytryk’s Shalako (Edward Dmytryk, 1968)
DVD: Universal (Australia). DVD title: Shalako. Language: English. Ratio: 2.35:1. Length: 1:48:31. Colour. Extras: none.

Irina Lazaar (BB) is travelling in a hunting party full of European, American and British arrogance. They don’t care about treaties with the Apache; white men shouldn’t dirty themselves by dealing with savages. Fortunately, a half-breed (Sean Connery) is there to help out.

Though not as bad as it seemed in 1968, this is still a pretty dull Western, devoid of thrills and capturing not a hint of spark between Connery and Bardot. This is the film Connery made instead of Ian Fleming’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Peter Hunt, 1969).

One can see the casting sessions on this film, everyone excited by re-teaming Bardot and Stephen Boyd (from Les Bijoutiers du clair de lune), Connery and Honor Blackman (from Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton, 1964)), and the first joint outing of BB and ‘007’. But nothing helps.

This is also the first time in her career that Bardot doesn’t glow: her face is lined and aged, the thick black eye make-up ridiculous. The bloom of youth has gone and she looks much older than her 33 years (at the time of filming in January 1968).

The DVD is widescreen and fairly accurate to how the filmed looked, which isn’t terrific, Bond cinematographer Ted Moore fighting with the harsh light and losing. Set in unusually barren hills, this is an ugly Western and a romantic stock photo of Monument Valley on the DVD isn’t likely to fool anyone.

* * *

Les Femmes (Women, Jean Aurel, 1969)
aka De Vrouwtjes (Belgium)

DVD: Anchor Bay (US). DVD title: Les Femmes. Language: French. Subtitles: English (burnt-in). Ratio: 1.66:1. Length: 1:26:00. Colour. Extras: brief bio of BB.

In this minor comedy from Jean Aurel (he co-wrote Une Parisienne and was sacked from La Bride sur le cou), BB plays Clara, secretary to an author (Maurice Ronet) with writer’s block. The contract she signs for her job would have feminists livid: not only must she work for him whenever he wants, she must also sleep with him.

Aboard a train and inspired by Clara, Jérôme recounts incidents involving the women of his erotic life, played notably by Anny Duperey (to be seen eight years later in Sydney Pollack’s divine Bobby Deerfield), Kristina Holm and Tanya Lopert. BB’s then lover, Patrick Gilles, has a guest part as Clara’s fiancé – dumped at the film’s start (just as Gilles would soon be dumped for Christian Kalt).

Bardot doesn’t have all that much to do (much of the film is made up of flashbacks to Jérôme’s past loves), though the film opens and closes with an extreme close-up of her mouth (sadly out of focus) and she does lie on a white-sheeted bed in one of the most celebrated BB images ever taken. Though Bardot looks much better than in Edward Dymytryk’s Shalako, she still looks too mature for her age (then 34).

The DVD is absolutely bare-bones, starting as soon as it is put in the player, but finishing with an offer of chapter selections and a brief written bio of BB (with the outrageous claim: “Unattractive as a child”!).

The DVD is in slightly the wrong ratio (midway between 4:3 and 1.66:1) and the colour is just okay, despite being “fully restored from original negatives”.

* * *

L’Ours et la Poupée (The Bear and the Doll, Michel Deville, 1970)
aka L’Orso e la Bambola (Italy)

DVD: Koch Vision (US). Language: English (dubbed). Subtitles: no. Ratio: 4.33:1. Length: 1:24:01. Black and white. Extras: zilch.

Post Benjamin ou les memoires d’un puceau (1968) and pre his arthouse period, Michel Deville had a great run with frivolous comedies, radiantly shot. But L’Ours et la Poupée, the story of opposites attracting, is not a highpoint.

BB is Félicia, a snobby, rich and flirtatious bundle of trouble who has a car accident with Gaspard (Jean-Pierre Cassel), a cellist in an orchestra. The film is mostly famous for BB stepping clothed from a bathtub and saying, “Ces cochons de bonshomes, ils n’y verront rien!” (“Those good-natured pigs, they won’t see anything!”).

An atrocious DVD, it is advertised on websites as being in colour and widescreen (as it should be), but is actually 4:3 and in black and white. It looks like it has been taken from a dupe of a VHS duped from a television copy. It should be burnt in the village square, with the distributor placed in a stock and pounded with rotten tomatoes.

* * *

click to buy “The Novices” at Amazon.comLes Novices (The Novices, Guy Casaril, 1970)
aka Las Novicias (Argentina)

DVD: Pathfinder (US). Language: French. Subtitles: English. Ratio: 1.66:1. Length: 1:26:03. Colour. Extras: stills gallery, trailer, filmographies.

The idea of teaming two of France’s top two actresses, Annie Girardot and BB, in a light-hearted romp seemed like a good idea. It worked, after all, for BB and Jeanne Moreau in Viva Maria!, and it works in a way for this soufflé of a movie.

BB is a nun who is not sure of her calling. She dashes away from a beach excursion and tries to make do in a non-secular world. Fortunately, she befriends a fun-loving hooker (Girardot) and together they get up to high-spirited fun. The ending will surprise no one.

The DVD looks nice and clean, but has the slightly off colour register found in all Pathfinder’s DVD releases of the films of Claude Chabrol.

* * *

Boulevard du rhum (Rum Boulevard, Robert Enrico, 1970)
aka La Via del Rhum (Italy)

Unavailable, though illegal DVD+Rs appear regularly for sale on eBay. These have not been pursued.

* * *

Les Pétroleuses (The Oil Girls, Christian-Jacque, 1971)
aka The Legend of Frenchie King (UK), Le Pistolere (Italy), De Opstooksters (Belgium), Petroleum Girls (Australia)

DVDs: Dex Entertainment (Japan), Payless Entertainment (Australia). DVD titles: Les Pétroleuses (Japan), Petroleum Girls (Australia). Language: French (Japan), dubbed English (Australian). Subtitles: Japanese only (Japan), none (Australia). Ratio: 16:9 (Japan), 4:3 (Australia). Length: 1:30:15 (Japan), 1:32:51 (Australia). Extras: biographies (Japan), filmography, stills gallery (Australia).

In yet another attempt to recapture the glories of Viva Maria!, BB teamed with Claudia Cardinale in a feminist Western where the girls get all the good parts. Christian-Jacque, who directed Babette s’en va-t-en guerre, tries very hard to inject this rollicking yarn with feistiness and good humour, but the film is totally unloved. While a disaster in many ways, it still is a fascinating time-capsule of a brief period in cinema (the early 1970s) when female characters could do whatever they liked and get away with it. When Thelma and Louise tried the same thing a decade later, they had to die. (Bizarrely, that is the film feminists truly love.)

Bardot and Cardinale look gorgeous, even if Christian-Jacque keeps having them bend forward in low-cut bodices, as if these two screen icons are comparing cup size. BB and Cardinale, the most important actress in the transition of the Western from its classic period to the present – The Professionals (Richard Brooks, 1966; C’era una volta di West (Once Upon a Time in the West, Sergio Leone, 1968)) – deserve better.

As for the Australian DVD, it is pan-and-scan when it should be widescreen and the image quality is despicable. The Japanese DVD, on the other hand, is sublime (albeit only in the original French without English subtitles). The image quality is magnificent and it is a joy to see the film in widescreen once more.

However, the Japanese DVD arrived just as Senses was going to press, so there hasn’t been time to compare the different versions. But the sparkling quality (and the sound of Michael J. Pollard actually speaking French) may help catalyse a complete rethink of the film’s merits.

* * *

click to buy “Don Juan or if Don Juan Were a Woman” at Amazon.comDon Juan ou et si Don Juan était une femme… (Don Juan or if Don Juan Were a Woman…, Vadim, 1973)
aka Don Juan or if Don Juan Were a Woman (UK, Australia), Si Don Juan fuese Mujer (Argentina)

DVD: HVe (US). DVD title: Don Juan or If Don Juan Were a Woman. Language: French. Subtitles: English. Ratio: 16:9. Length: 1:34:55 (including 56 secs of exit music). Extras: filmography, BB trailers.

This is a stunning DVD of an extraordinary film, easily the most misunderstood in the Vadim œuvre. By examining what would happen if a woman behaved as a man, Vadim managed to outrage feminists and men, both groups idiotically labelling the film as misogynistic! (The same fate was happening at the same time to Walerian Borowczyk, who was experimenting with similar notions.) In part, and this has been largely forgotten, it was because feminists argued that, when liberated, women would behave in a completely different way to men (except in athletics, where they would equal them). They couldn’t have been more wrong.

This new DVD transfer is magnificent, capturing the brilliance of the cinematography of Henri Decaë and Andreas Winding in all its kitsch 1970s glory. It glows and is a revelation after years of heavily censored and edited prints, and appalling VHS releases.

The HVe DVD cover states it is Bardot’s last feature, but, as all fans know, that is not correct. (The world over it appears a requirement of being employed to write copy for DVD covers that one be grammatically and cinematically illiterate.)

* * *

L’Histoire très bonne et très joyeuse de Colinot Trousse-Chemisse (The Very Good and Very Joyous Story of Colinot Skirt-Lifter, Nina Companeez, 1973)
aka Colinot el Seductor (Argentina)

Unavailable.

BONUS

Brigitte Bardot (video-clip compilation, 2005)

DVD: Universal (France). DVD title: Divine B.B.. Language: French. Subtitles: no. Ratio: 4:3. Length: 1:58:11. Black and white, and colour. Extras: stills galleries (both).

This dream collection has 37 songs, from 1961’s “On the Sunny Side of the Street” to 1973’s “La Soleil de Ma Vie”. BB sings with Sacha Distel, Olivier Despax and, most memorably, with Serge Gainsbourg. If only there were a video-clip in existence of their “Je t’aime moi non plus” to go with “Comic Strip” and Bonnie and Clyde”.

Though some clips are worn and scratched, this collection is a radiant gem.

“I want there to be no hypocrisy, no nonsense about love”, BB once said. The debunking of love and eroticism is an undertaking that has wider implications than one might think. As soon as a single myth is touched, all myths are in danger. A sincere gaze, however limited its range, is a fire that may spread and reduce to ashes all the shoddy disguises that camouflage reality. Children are forever asking why, why not. They are told to be silent. Brigitte’s eyes, her smile, her presence, impel one to ask oneself why, why not.

– Simone de Beauvoir (11)

Endnotes

  1. Jean Cocteau, in Stop, October 1962. This quote was kindly pointed out to the author by friend and fellow idolater, Geoff Gardner.
  2. Stanislas Choko, Brigitte Bardot à l’Affiche (Paris: Éditions du Collectionneur, 1992).
  3. The French DVD incorrectly has the title on its DVD cover as Manina: la fille sans voiles (the same error as on the French and Belgian posters), while the Australian opts on the DVD cover for Manina: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter but doesn’t subtitle the film that way.
  4. Roger Vadim, translated by Melinda Camber Porter, Bardot Deneuve Fonda (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986), pp. 53-4.
  5. Vadim, p. 80.
  6. Jean Douchet, in collaboration with Cédric Anger, translated by Robert Bonnono, French New Wave (Paris: D.A.P.-Distributed Art Publishers, in association with Éditions Hazan and Cinémathèque Française, 1999), p. 236.
  7. But, hey, look what Douchet writes about Claude Lelouch: “Although there is no question that Lelouch adored cinema, it can’t be said that cinema appreciated the gesture.” (Douchet, p. 249) Don’t you just love the past tense of “adored” – this about one of France’s most commercially successful directors, now with 46 films to his credit, including six since Douchet dipped his withering and wilted pen in poisoned ink.
  8. Jean Narboni and Tom Milne (Eds), introduction by Richard Roud, Godard on Godard: Critical Writings (London: Secker & Warburg, 1972), p. 55.
  9. Quoted in Tony Crawley, Bébé: The Films of Brigitte Bardot (London: LSP Books, 1975), p. 133.
  10. At a birthday party for Melbourne film critic Tom Ryan, somewhere back in the mists of time, Robin Wood erupted when this author suggested Windows (Gordon Willis, 1980) was an interesting film. This was totally unacceptable to Wood because the villain is a lesbian. Pointing out that men are in fact a minority group, and that no sexual grouping represents more than 50 percent, leaving no acceptable villains by Wood’s criterion, did not help calm the Canadian critic. The evening is well remembered by all who attended.
  11. Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Bernard Fretchman, Brigitte Bardot and the Lolita Syndrome (London: André Deutsch and Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1960), 37.

About The Author

Scott Murray is a filmmaker and co-Editor of Senses of Cinema.