...And God Created Woman Reviews
Bardot, of course, is a credible actress in her own right, one who would eventually headline vehicles worthy of her sex kitten persona (a la 1963's "Le Mepris" and 1965's "Viva Maria!"). But "... And God Created Woman," despite knowing how to competently photograph her, is flat melodrama that would benefit from "Peyton Place" (1957) theatricality. Softened by censors and given the stagey cinematographic trappings tacked on by CinemaScope, little heat is generated; carnality is something one has to search for, considering just how toned down Bardot's sexuality is and how wooden every performance surrounding her is.
The film's shimmeringly idealistic but portentously without immediacy. In it, Bardot is Juliette Hardy, an eighteen-year-old orphan so sexually insatiable her appetite can perhaps only parallel that of a twelve-year-old boy. But the difference lies in that she's actually getting some, and that the opposite sex actually takes her seriously (or, at least, takes her seriously as a one-night lay to be forgotten about). And she likes that attention: nothing much stops her from sunbathing nude, from socializing with the flirty vigor of a randy vixen, from sleeping around like a Long Island Lolita waiting for her Joey Buttafuoco. Her adoptive parents are perpetually on the edge of sending her back to the orphanage. The town seems ready to banish her at any given moment.
The liberated girl would rather live a life where's she's free to use to her body as a weapon, but since the conservative culture in which she's living would prefer she be the virgin in white to the temptress in black lingerie, she ultimately conforms and marries the twenty-one-year-old square Michel (Jean-Louis Trintignant), whom she weds as a way to get closer to his rugged older brother (Christian Marquand). But no matter the circumstance, "... And God Created Woman" is about the taming of this sexpot, and that, in itself, is a bore.
Because we don't necessarily want to see Juliette comply with what society wants- from Sharon Stone in "Basic Instinct" (1992) to Lily Powers in "Baby Face" (1933), we want to compulsively watch as Juliette uses men as a way to propel herself up to the top. There's a fascinating power to that dynamic, especially in a cinematic landscape afraid to express itself sexually. Vadim's reasoning to only slightly challenge the censors is disappointing - we want to see "... And God Created Woman" push further than "Lolita" (1962). Dismaying, then, that it seems like little more than a vaguely more risqué Sandra Dee vehicle.
But in spite of its paltriness, "... And God Created Woman" still warrants viewing as a result of the thrill of seeing Bardot at her prime. Maybe everything around her is not as electrifying to behold as she is. But so intriguing for the eyes and the loins is she that we don't much care if there's nothing else to attach ourselves to. It's only after watching the movie that we come to our senses.
The once shocking "...And God Created Woman" might seem tame by today's standards but is still risque enough to merit interest, especially in the movie's climactic nightclub scene. On the other hand, its message about society not knowing what to do with sexual women still resonates, as does the insight that the more restictive a society, the worse men will act. Even as the story is inconsistent, wavering between comedy and melodrama, there is still Brigitte Bardot who makes a great entrance. While it takes 30 minutes for anybody to notice Jean-Louis Trintignant, don't worry as he is only getting started.
Unfortunately, what should have been a total smash of a film is reigned in through the baggage of 2014 eyes. No longer are the views of women presented here something acceptable. And the casual way the film advocates these archaic views makes it all the more offensive. I guess there was a time when a casual women would be called all sorts of nasty words by men, and I guess it was expected that a woman's husband would sometimes need to get physical with her to "keep her in line", and perhaps seen through the shades of 1956 expectations, none of these things would feel out of line for the era.
But with it no longer being 1956 it's hard to just sit back and enjoy a film that so blatantly reinforces such a mindset. There is a film within ...And God Created Women. There is even a great film there. But it is couched in so much contempt that to modern eyes the whole thing gets stained.