In Michel Deville's The Bear And The Doll (L'Hours Et La Poupee), we follow the story of a man named Gaspard (Jean-Pierre Cassel) who lives happily in his country home with his family. He leads a life of some solitude and appreciates the fact that his location affords him this option. His joy in life comes from spending time with his son and his nieces, as well as playing his cello. He's a quiet and content man who enjoys the simple things in life.
His life changes one day when he has a small car accident and collides into a fancy Rolls-Royce. Behind the wheel of the expensive car is a gorgeous blonde woman named Felicia (Brigitte Bardot). She's a very attractive woman, somewhat younger than Gaspard is, and she's also filthy rich and used to getting things her way. When Gaspard does not immediately fall head over heels for her, as she is accustomed to men doing, she sees him as a challenge and puts into motion a plan to worm her way into his heart. Gaspard isn't as gullible as Felicia believes him to be, however, and it's not going to be easy to trick him into falling for her.
While hardly Bardot's defining role, this later entry in her shapely body of work finds her well suited to the character she plays. Felicia requires a certain smugness, a certain 'I know I'm hot and I know you know I'm hot' attitude to really make the movie work – without this obvious self confidence the character cannot function properly in the story – and Bardot really delivers in that regard. Though she was beginning to age ever so slightly by the time this film was made she's still marvelous to look at and whenever she's on screen, nothing else really matters.
The way in which Gaspard and Felicia play off in each in this cat and mouse game works well and provides for a few comedic moments, the majority of which come from Gaspard's reactions to her advances and her counter reactions to his abruptness. Bardot makes the most out of her expressive eyes in her attempts to bring him under her charm and the fact that he sees right through her drives her nuts.
In a world where opposites do sometimes attract, the film presents an interesting look at the way that two people from totally different backgrounds and who would never even really look at each other if they were to pass on the street can be brought together by a random act of circumstance (in this case, the car accident). The couple represent each other's antithesis – neither of them have any appreciation for each other's lifestyle of life choices, but yet the romance inevitably ensues in its own strange way regardless.
Interesting then that Bardot, who after turning forty has more or less gone into hiding, would take on the lifestyle that Gaspard's character lives in her own life. Since her retirement she has intentionally stayed out of the spotlight and instead dedicated her efforts towards animals rights activism.
The black and white fullframe image looks pretty bad. First off, the film was shot in color (which is how it was presented on VHS) and not in black and white, so why it is presented here this way is a mystery to me. Secondly, the image also looks cropped. I'm not entirely sure what the original aspect ratio is but this looks to me like a pan and scan transfer. Taking that into account and adding to it the fact that the image suffers from compression artifacts, edge enhancement and print damage and you're left with a pretty ugly picture that really makes it difficult to enjoy the feature on this DVD.
The film is presented dubbed in English in a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono format. Not having the option to watch the film in French is unfortunate as the dubbing isn't of particularly good quality and neither is the presentation of the sound on this release. While the majority of the film is quite audible there is some mild hiss throughout as well as the occasional drop out on the track.
The only supplement on this release is a brief still gallery featuring cover art for this and other releases in Koch's Cinema Sirens Collection. Certainly there could have been more features found for this release but the same efforts (or lack thereof) that were put into the audio and video presentation on this DVD are unfortunately reflected in the 'extras' section as well. The cover art is nice, but it's not really anything to write home about.
It's a shame that there wasn't more effort put into this release as the film itself isn't bad and Bardot is always captivating even in her lesser films. Sadly the Koch DVD of The Bear And The Doll just isn't of very good quality and as such earns itself a big, fat Skip It rating. This one is for Bardot completists only and even then, if you've already got it on VHS, just hold on to that release as it is of better quality.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.