... And God Created Woman
Aside from its fantastic title and postcard-baiting locales a Europe-attracted Alfred Hitchcock would kill to claim for himself, Roger Vadim’s … And God Created Woman has little going for it besides Brigitte Bardot’s face and body. Only for so long can a shapely eyeful cover up a lacking of substance, though, and Bardot doesn’t have the charisma of Marilyn Monroe and Vadim isn’t as joyous a filmmaker as, say, Russ Meyer.
This is a movie triple-X by 1956’s critera but tediously G by 2016’s. Plenty of movies as old as your favorite senior citizen have remained steamy over the years — fact is is that … And God Created Woman is all hype and no delivery, the sixty-year-old cinematic equivalent of Pitchfork’s most widely covered new artist of 2010 to never have quite made it.
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, makes for a 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.
In the movie, Bardot is Juliette Hardy, an eighteen-year-old orphan so sexually insatiable that 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 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 instead of 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 circumstances, … 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 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's 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. C