...And God Created Woman (Criterion Collection) Review
...And God Created Woman, originally titled Et Dieu... créa la femme in France, sparked controversy almost fifty years ago for its ferociously erotic parade of its sex bomb star Brigitte Bardot. Director Roger Vadim utilises his star attraction and turns the camera gaze into a viewfinder for hedonistic male lust, framing a story around Bardot's promiscuous aura. Whilst not Bardot's first film, ...And God Created Woman came to be seen as the opening chapter of the star's rise to the queen of the sex kittens slowly growing in number amongst the movie industry.
Presented in glorious Eastmancolor scope, ...And God Created Woman is set in sunny St. Tropez, and tells of eighteen-year-old orphan Juliette (Brigitte Bardot) who has become the talk of the town due mainly to a series of cheap sexual flings with the male residents. Juliette has an admirer in rich, older Eric (Curt Jurgens), who seems obsessed with the young woman, and yet her heart is set on Antoine (Christian Marquand). However, Antoine breaks his promise to Juliette to take her away from St. Tropez, and her foster mother threatens to send her back to the orphanage. As luck would have it, Antoine's younger brother Michel (Jean-Louis Trintignant) comes to Juliette's rescue, and marries her despite Juliette not reciprocating his love. Soon, the attentions Juliette receives from the many male admirers causes tension amongst the small community.
Any film that shocked audiences nearly fifty years ago will have obviously lost some of its edge when compared to the efforts of today, and typically ...And God Created Woman is no different. The film caused outrage with a side-on shot of a full-nude Bardot sunbathing face-down, and many countries had the sequence removed, even if it is arguably the most pivotal few frames of the film. The brief nude sequence helps to clearly identify the relationship Bardot's Juliette has with the camera, since it suggests that she is enticing the audience with her charms on as much of an equal level as she seduces the on-screen characters.
As a tale, ...And God Created Woman is slightly plodding, merely because Vadim's wide scope framing distances the audience from the characters. There is a relative lack of tight close-ups, and for most sequences the camera is firmly fixed to the same zone, rigidly tipping the balance of the film's pacing solely on the actors. In terms of performances, most are slightly stilted, but still do enough to render the film enjoyable. As Juliette, Bardot displays a splintered emotional core that fluctuates wildly between sexual aggressiveness and mental insecurity, and her display is enough to keep the film aloft on her shoulders. Jean-Louis Trintignant generates the most pity from the audience as Michel, but at times even his character seems to be asking for all of the trouble he becomes embroiled in, primarily because he cannot understand the turmoil a life with Juliette will bring. Curt Jurgens generates a thick level of distrust as Eric, mainly because there seems to be something perverted about his lust for Juliette. All of the male performers seem content to play second fiddle to Bardot, obviously because of director Vadim's fascination with his own wife. Ironically, Vadim's sexual-liberation of Bardot sparked the downhill of the marriage, paralleling the on-screen events of Juliette in ...And God Created Woman.
Vadim clearly sees the film as a way to parade Bardot, as if he is 'advertising' her explosive sexual charm to an unsuspecting public unable to resist, and yet in equal measure its easy to sense revulsion on the part of the director. Whilst Juliette is presented as a free-spirit, searching for sexual security in a society that places her at the bottom of the pecking order, she is also ambiguously presented as a predatory vixen causing disarray amongst her innocent male admirers. Arguably, Vadim is presenting Juliette as some ill-product of an uncaring society, since that Juliette's behaviour could easily have been sparked by her lack of parental guidance or a strong patriarchal figure. In essence, the film paradoxically pities and demonises Juliette, similar to man’s own love/hate relationship to that of the female.
Whatever its merits as a form of entertainment, ...And God Created Woman is very courageous, and deserves the attention it has received over the years, if only because of its one of the first chapters in the gradual ‘sexualising’ of cinema. Bardot has never looked better, and Vadim has never been artier.
Presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen, the transfer by Criterion is generally very good, even if it does contain some slight artefacts and edge enhancement on large television units. Generally, the picture is very sharp and has a beautiful palette of colour tones, due mainly to Criterion’s extensive restoration of the film print.
Presented in the original mono, the sound mix obviously lacks a decent dynamic range but still complements the film at a very acceptable level. Dialogue is clearly audible, and the mix mostly lacks any trace of hiss.
Menu: A lightly animated menu that deliberately lacks any flashy visual intros or annoying interfaces.
Packaging: An enticing cover artwork, amaray cased, with the usual Criterion template (spine # 77) and a four page chapter insert with production notes.
Restoration Demonstration: An interesting three minute featurette highlighting Criterion’s extended efforts in restoring ...And God Created Woman to its original cinematic splendour.
Trailer: The original trailer is provided, and does capitalises mainly on the sexual charms of Miss Bardot.
Whilst it certainly is an intriguing film, ...And God Created Woman hasn’t been given the most spectacular release from Criterion in terms of extra features. However, considering they have restored the film extensively and given it a fine anamorphic transfer, ...And God Created Woman is still a fine package for the connoisseurs of either French films in general, Roger Vadim or indeed Bardot herself.