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And God Created Woman  

".....but the devil created Brigitte Bardot."

  That tag line pretty well sums up the general attitude toward the character of Juliette, played by Brigitte Bardot, in the 1956 sensation And God Created Woman.  The story contains a peculiar mixture of (for its time) radical feminism and good old fashioned sexism.  Only in the 1950`s could a movie try to have it both ways and get away with it without too many jeers from the establishment.

 Buy And God Created Woman [1987] at Amazon!

Bardot plays a troubled 18-year old.  That is to say, troubled to the eyes of everyone else in the small fishing village in which she lives.  She dresses in sexy clothes, or occasionally nothing at all, at least in her famous first appearance.    She is immensely bored at her job at a newsstand (who wouldn't??).  And at least a couple of guys notice that she is one hot dame.  So of course she spells nothing but trouble.  Even the home where she lives in doesn't respect her, as the old couple threaten to return her to the orphanage if she doesn't shapen up.  I, for one, thought that was a terribly cruel thing to seriously propose, considering that many kids have done worse without being put away.   And when a couple of brothers from a fishing family try to save her from that horrible place by getting her to marry one of them, there was no offense taking by me when she jumped at the chance.

Besides the man, Michel, who eventually marries her, there are also a few other men ensnared in Bardot`s web.  Michel`s older brother, Antoine, is a successful individual who poses a more macho, aggressive threat to Bardot, than the mild-mannered husband.  There is also a rich businessman, Carradine, who tries to buy the property Bardot`s new family lives on, so he can build a casino.  Carradine is the one who witnesses Bardot in the nude, but, unlike the other men in the film, he is not so much in lust but in amusement at this woman.  With age comes refinement, so he doesn`t attempt to stifle any of Bardot`s plans.
I could smell the stench of women-hating from a mile away.  Much of that stench came from one particular skunk, the character of Antoine, who manages to infect everyone else in the cast.  Antoine is this stupid idiot, who seems to have a thing for Bardot, and actually is on a date with her when they plan to meet somewhere else.  The fact he's quite smitten with Bardot is all right by me,  but then he proceeds to show off his true, macho colors in a painful moment when Bardot overhears him talking to another guy in the washroom about what sort of treatment she deserves.  He says she's the type of woman you can only have one-night-stands with, for she'd only forget about you anyway.  There is a nice long shot of Bardot`s gradual reaction to this speech, and she rightfully rebuffs him.  But Antoine is a predator, and even when Bardot is married to his brother, he still lusts after her.  His attitude, however, seems to be that he cannot help these animal desires, and so does his best to have his way with her, while still of the belief she is nothing but worthless trash.

The end of the movie is just plain bizarre.  Without revealing everything, let me just say I lost all my respect for Michel with his final act.  It seemed that he was the only sensible person in the movie, and then he does this, out of the blue.  And the final dialogue between Carradine and Antoine is akin to an older man attempting to warn of the evil of the world to the youth of the world.  Antoine even asks him why is he "playing Father Christmas", as if it's a gift to be given the ability to treat a woman like crap.

But what was she doing wrong?????????  Other than that little indiscretion with Antoine, which seemed more like a way to create a finale, all she is doing is acting like a free spirit.  If she were living in the 1990`s, she'd be considered bland.  She'd be breaking the rules if she weren't doing the things she is doing in this movie.  It's not as if Bardot was even fooling around with anyone, and there's no doubt in my mind Michel is her first actual lover (not that this should matter).  But, then again, she is living in a fishing town, which is undoubtedly populated with the redneck and anal variety.  Such constant suspicion will make a girl unhappy, and we can tell.  No wonder she tries her best to have the little happiness she can receive.  In a way, this can become a depressing film.  Someone who merely wants to have a fun-filled, socialite kind of life is constantly abused, insulted, and degraded for it.
Shooting the film in Cinemascope, the preferred classical method of grandiose visions everywhere, was a fine idea.  I was under the assumption this picture was just an old, black and white feature until I actually began to watch it, but, upon reflection, the style is completely appropriate.   A movie like this is meant to be big, colorful and sleazy in a romantic sort of way.  And it is meant to show off Bardot`s attributes, which are plenty.   While someone like David Lean actually went out to the desert and the jungle to visualize his visions in the best way possible, director Roger Vadim essentially produced a dirty old man's version of Cinemascope grandeur by picking the best dame he could find, and saying to myself "I've found my muse."

That said, Bardot does get some good lines, which are amazingly sensible considering the ultimate attitude toward her character.  I don't think I could forget a few of those lines, including one where she tells off an old prude "I didn't think love was a disease.  But then you have no fear of catching it, you've already been vaccinated."  If only more people could have that wit, when the rednecks and the uptight of the world get all in a fuss over some woman's flirting.  Even in these enlightened nineties, not everyone can let the girls have their fun in peace.

David Macdonald

David Macdonald's Movie Reviews

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