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Lionsgate has scoured the Studio Canal library to assemble the Brigitte Bardot 5-Film Collection, an assortment of star vehicles for one of France's most famous cinematic exports. None of the color films are classics but all display Ms. Bardot's signature pout and infectious smile. Definitely a cinematic original, "BB" is still the fantasy of millions of male daydreams.
Brigitte Bardot has never been forgotten, even though she's been absent from the screen for 34 years. She became a continental star with just a few films but didn't catch on internationally until 1956 in ... and God Created Woman, a sexy drama directed by her husband, Roger Vadim. This collection showcases three comedies, a romantic trifle and a more serious study of romantic obsession. Ms. Bardot's bright personality dominates all of them.
The first two shows are directed by Michel Boisrond. In 1956's Naughty Girl (Cette sacrée gamine) Bardot plays a mischievous young woman prone to amorous adventures. Handsome cabaret entertainer Jean Clery (Jean Bretonnière) spirits Brigitte Latour (Bardot) from a fancy girl's school to keep her away from police questions about her father's connections to a smuggling racket. Brigitte is delighted to stay in Jean's upscale Paris apartment. She accidentally starts a fire and sabotages Jean's engagement to Lili, his psychiatrist (Françoise Fabian of My Night at Maud's). Brigitte becomes entangled with numerous subsidiary comic characters while dodging the smugglers that operate out of the nighclub where Jean performs.
The story is feather light and wholly predictable, yet Bardot is pleasing as the bikini-clad daughter who delights in creating havoc. The message is that Brigitte is a delightful baby who needs to be pampered. Bretonnière has two or three musical numbers. Bardot joins him onstage to escape some crooks, and Jean's extended daydream sequence gives her a fantasy dance number. Hollywood veteran Mischa Auer has a bit as a pop-eyed dance instructor at the girls' school and the late Michel Serrault is one of the frustrated police inspectors.
1959's Come Dance with Me (Voulez-vous danser avec moi?) is the unlikely tale of Virginie (Bardot), who walks out on her husband Hervé (Henri Vidal) after a fight. Hervé gets into an innocent (but explicit) petting party with Anita, a woman he picks up in a bar (Dawn Addams of The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse). Anita turns out to be a blackmailer, and when Hervé goes to her dance studio to negotiate, he finds himself framed for her murder. Virginie believes her husband's story ("It's all my fault for walking out on him") and goes undercover as a dance instructor to catch the killer. That motivates plenty of Mambos, Tangos and Rock 'n' Roll gyrations while a visiting inspector (Paul Frankeur of Buñuel's The Milky Way) wonders why the perky Virginie is gumming up his investigation.
The movie is fairly funny and moves quickly. Although burdened with a standard whodunnit plot, the trail eventually leads to a surprise killer. Virginie has an interesting conversation with a fellow dance instructor who confides that he's a covert homosexual and moonlights in a club called Blue Fetish. Virginie is accepting of this information, but the script betrays a reactionary attitude when the dancer confesses that he "has a problem with his morals." He also tells Virginie that she makes him regret that he's not attracted to women.
1962's Love on a Pillow (Le repos du guerrier) reunites Bardot with director Roger Vadim, now no longer her husband. The story is interesting but ponderous; it seems to go on much longer than its 102 minutes. In Dijon to collect an inheritance, Geneviève Le Thiel (Bardot) opens the wrong hotel room and inadvertently interrupts the suicide of Renaud Sarti (Robert Hossein). Becoming "the owner of his soul," Geneviève at first cannot get rid of Renaud but soon succumbs to his charms. She dismisses her fiancé and shacks up with Renaud in her attractive Paris apartment. For his part, Renaud refuses to admit that he needs Geneviève or even believes in love. He reads Don Quixote while toying with her affections, lying and taking to drink. The pair meet up with Renaud's sculptor friend Katov (James Robertson Justice of Land of the Pharaohs, dubbed into French) and his girl Raphaële (Macha Méril of Belle du jour and Deep Red). At a wild party, Geneviève is humiliated by Renaud's insistence that fidelity and jealousy don't matter. Relocating to Florence, Renaud's drinking worsens. He claims he's trying to drive Geneviève away, that he'll destroy her if she doesn't leave. He picks up a prostitute right in front of her. Katov asks Geneviève if she's willing to 'go all the way' to the end of Renaud's self-inflicted torment.
The original title translates to The Warrior's Rest and the original book source probably related Renaud's soul-sickness to wartime experiences. Roger Vadim covers the narrative but doesn't provide a satisfying ending. The pace slows as Geneviève's trials become more predictable. Vadim indulges in titillating near-nudity and decorative camera angles effects unconnected to the characters. A split diopter allows a giant close-up of Bardot to share the screen with action in the distance, keeping both in focus.
The interesting Houssein has an acting edge on Bardot; it's really his movie. He convinces as a selfish creep with unlimited reserves of hateful remarks: "Love is an abyss. I don't care." Bardot has only her signature pout and some tears to work with; she's either happy or unhappy with few gradients in between. We so thoroughly despise Renaud that the ending reconciliation doesn't work. Vadim stages it in a windswept Florentine ruin, an overly dramatic gambit that can't mask the absence of a real character conversion.
1967's Two Weeks in September (À coeur joie) is a hollow trifle depending wholly on Bardot's charm. She's Cecile, a Parisian model bored with her marriage to the dependable Philippe (Jean Rochefort). On a week's modeling job in London Cecile falls for Vincent (Laurent Terzieff), a guy who hangs around the fashion shoot. They indulge in a three-day fling in Scotland before Cecile is forced to choose between the men in her life.
Director Serge Bourguignon goes for pretty pictures and not much else. The modeling theme shows Bardot in a variety of fashions, photographed quayside on the Thames and at the zoo. Future director Michael Sarne is the photographer. Scotland is tapped as a photogenic location, complete with James Robertson Justice in a kilt, showing the lovers to an abandoned castle. Thiis time using his own voice, Justice brings breakfast to their bed of hay. Vincent and Cecile exchange weak dialogue about love and take turns hugging Vincent's Basset Hound. Cecile wonders out loud why she can't just have two men in her life. The deepest line in the film is Cecile's advice to her husband: "Women are like children. You should never make them a promise you can't keep." The flighty Cecile is contrasted with lions in the zoo, and her lovemaking cries are compared to the seabirds outside of the Scottish castle. The literal translation of the French title is roughly, "A Happy Heart."
1969's The Vixen (Les femmes) labors under a strained concept that resembles a soft core plot from the 1980s, but without extended sex scenes. Womanizing author Jerome (Maurice Ronet) has found success with books about his failed love affairs. For new inspiration, his publisher hires young Clara (Bardot) as an amorous 'personal' secretary. It's a weak fantasy. Clara protests that her contract requires her to cooperate with Jerome even in bed, but she says "Oui!" anyway. On a train ride to Rome, Clara takes dictation as Jerome goes over his previous affairs, reviewing his inability to commit to various beauties played by Christina Holme, Anny Duperey, Tanya Lopert and others. Jerome finally gets Clara's full cooperation but the ending suggests that a new secretary will be needed for his next book.
Travelogue scenes share space with Jerome's memories, pictured in past-tense images of key moments in his relationships: abandoning a bride at the altar, leaping back and forth between two lovers, etc. Jerome meets his match when one of his girlfriends turns out to be more willfully promiscuous than he is. Bardot pouts and teases, Ronet looks perplexed and the movie doesn't go much of anywhere. The sexiest material on screen happens in the credits, which take advantage of lengthy close-up of Bardot's moist lips. Now that's sexy.
Lionsgate rounds out its Brigitte Bardot 5-Film Collection with a New Wave featurette hosted by Hugh Hefner and a number of Bardot biographers. Hefner correlates Bardot's success to the impact of foreign films on American sexuality in the conservative 1950s. The interviews play against a backdrop of clips from the films in the set, including every available frame of fleeting near-nudity. More interestingly, the biographers talk about the actress's problem with her "sex kitten" image, her fleeting marriages and her retreat to a happy retirement in 1973.
Image quality is good in all of the features, with Naughty Girl a bit softer than the others. All of the transfers are anamorphically enhanced. Naughty Girl, Love on a Pillow and Two Weeks in September are formatted in 2:35 'Scope, and the other two fill widescreen monitors at 1:66. All of the tracks are French, with removable subtitles in English and Spanish. Be careful opening the case, as the pillow-like white vinyl sleeve is a tight fit on the disc holder inside. The temptation is to look for an opening in the sleeve, but there is none. Just slide the holder up or down to get it out. 1
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Brigitte Bardot 5-Film Collection rates:
1. Good Information From Dick Dinman, 8.19.07: Hey Glenn, Couldn't reach anyone at Lionsgate so I rented the "new" Bardot collection and found that with the exception of a new Hugh Hefner-hosted (very short!) documentary this is a merely a repackaging of a previously released Anchor Bay collection which I own. I compared the two and found print condition, which is decent, is substantially the same though the bit-rate is much higher on the Anchor Bay versions which have only one film on each disc. Not included in the Lionsgate set is the much longer and far superior documentary that was on the Anchor Bay set, but by far the biggest disappointment for me was the fact that these remain the U.S. French-language versions of each film and not the original French versions. As most of these films originally contained considerably more Bardot skin (for me the only reason to sit through these lame films) this is considerably dispiriting. Cheers, Dick Dinman.
2. It isn't quite up to date, but Scott Murray's Senses of Cinema overview of BéBé on DVD makes excellent reading for Bardot fanatics. (Thanks to Edward Sullivan for this link)
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