Thursday, April 16, 2009

My brother, Justin Sanders on AND GOD CREATED WOMAN (77)

I'd like to introduce my older and less-good looking sibling, one Justin Sanders, who's become obsessed with French films in the last few months and begged, even pleaded with me to let him review And God Created Woman (77). He's unctuously persuasive, so after a few hours of his weasel-y pleads, I gave in.

Thus, Justin Sanders everyone:

Howdy devoted readers of the Criterion Quest!

Special guest blogger Justin here, comin' at you from sunny Los Angeles, CA. I'm on the "Arty '60s French Dude" beat here at the Quest, as I am a great fan of those guys' steadfast commitment to introverted surrealism, and to showing Brigitte Bardot's ass whenever possible.

I also happen to be Noah's older brother. There are some benefits to being closely related by blood to the blog's administrator. One is that I can share fun stories from Noah's past that he for some reason refuses to relate himself, perhaps to keep himself shrouded in his signature cape of aloof mystery. This elusive scribe of the online realm won't tell you, for instance, that when he was seven, he was the victim of a snowball barrage in the backyard courtesy of myself and my friend Bobby. Oh how we pelted him, until he fled screaming towards the pine trees, hands waving at the air as if fighting off a swarm of bees. Upon reaching the vicinity of tree #1, a big ol' bushy mother, he slipped on something buried in the snow with such force, momentum actually carried him on his back beneath the tree's thick branches and out of sight, as if an invisible toboggan had carted him off to a secret underground world. There was a brief silence, and then he emerged, covered with snow and pine needles, in a frenzy of helpless rage, to which we naturally responded by howling with laughter. As he passed us on his way back into the house to cry to mommy, the mystery of what he'd slipped on became solved: A perfect line of smeared dog shit ran from the back of his collar all the way down to his waistline.

Oh, the times we had. But I digress. You've come today to learn about Roger Vadim's lustful classic, And God Created Woman (77).

The first thing I want to say about this film is at first I thought it was directed by an American, as the moniker "Roger," to me, seems as American a name as Maddox, Zahara, or Pax. Turns out it derives from the French, and is thus likely pronounced "Roh - szhare" or something equally entrancing.

Secondly, Brigitte Bardot, like Hamlet or The Iliad, is timeless. She is timelessly hot. In 2,000 years, when the prevalence of machines and robots have caused our muscles to atrophy and we have become scarily thin and flimsy like the alien humanoids generally thought to be populating UFOs, we will watch ancient footage of her curvacious performances and still become intensely aroused. I have recently moved to LA, and subsequently have been separated from my girlfriend Sarah by many hundreds of miles. I won't go into details, but as a result, And God Created Woman (77) was particularly pleasant and frustrating to watch for me, in alternating doses.

I like these old French films because they're unconcerned with riveting plots or purposeful narrative flow. They linger, they take their time, and they don't worry about tying everything up in a nice, tidy bow. This quality extends from the extreme weirdness of Godot's Alphaville (25) and Week-end to films like this one, which is pretty straightforward, yet eventfully uneventful. Bardot plays Juliette, a pouty, luscious 18-year-old beauty (she's really stretching here) who drives every man she encounters crazy with lust. All the men in the movie want her, and all the women loathe and mistrust her, which seems to be a pretty accurate depiction of hot women's lives in general.

Juliette is a sexually energized orphan living with foster parents in a small oceanside town, where she gets into it with a family of three brothers who run a humble little boat repair business. She lusts after the older, brooding brother, Antoine, but winds up marrying the younger, more innocent brother Michel, not because she loves him, but to avoid getting shipped off to the orphanage by her guardians, who have grown tired of her tawdry ways. When Antoine, who is away most of the time, returns home permanently to negotiate a deal with a local developer who wishes to buy out the family business, a spark re-ignites between him and her, and trouble ensues.

This film made waves upon its release in 1957, and it's easy to see why. My modern, entirely corrupted, desensitized brain found Bardot so sexy it nearly hurt; I can't imagine what the conservative movie-going public must have made of her more than a half-century ago. There must have been riots in the streets. People's heads must have literally exploded, spraying gobs of brain matter and bloody hair and skull fragments in every direction. In the very first scene, for crying out loud, Bardot enters the screen naked, the camera moving tenderly over her maddening curves, driving the imagination wild with what lies just out of view. Bardot's performance never goes deeper than steady sensual pout mode, but Vadim, as great directors do, uses this persona well. Juliette lives to tempt men, and the movie's drama stems from her struggle to fight her true essence while in the thick of an unwanted marriage. We know she doesn't want to be there. She knows she doesn't want to be there, and it's only a matter of time before she cracks and the shit hits the fan.

There's a famous dance number in And God Created Woman (77) in which Juliette gets drunk and gets down with some musicians in the bar, dancing provocatively on the table in a slit skirt that leaves little to the imagination. And while this scene is nice, my personal favorite was the one where she stole one of the brothers' boats and took it out on the sea, where it promptly caught fire. Older brother Antoine heroically swims out to rescue her, and the exhausted, sand-covered interaction that ensues has to be one of the most erotic moments ever filmed.


Thanks a lot Pervert Sanders. You always know how to creep out everyone. Justin writes a pretty great blog about his recent move to LA and his attempts to become a thirty year old Hollywood star called Parade of Delusions, which I highly recommend.

No comments: