Viva Maria Review
The FilmLouis Malle was a film-maker who enjoyed a fair bit of diversity. In his early career, Malle made movies which had very little thematically to suggest they were the work of a single artist. His competence in making the very new wave like Elevator to the Gallows, his unremitting commitment to the anti-bourgeois romance of Les Amants, such artistry and seriousness was very likely to be followed by something as disposable and superficial as Zazie dans le Metro. I wouldn't for a second suggest these were not fine films, but the lack of a clearly personal agenda suggests that the director was not one who could easily be seen as an auteur.
The idea of a young Brigitte Bardot converting the world through free love and socialist revolution is a formidably attractive one. Similarly intoxicating is the merging of the magic of performance with the transformative power of revolt in a story set amongst entertainers who develop political commitment from following their hearts and passions. Viva Maria shares a spirit with many of the westerns which were to come from Europe which used the historical tales of the Americas as a backdrop for modern thoughts on rebellion and class conflict.
Malle and his co-writer Jean-Claude Carrière enjoy the sprawling story and pepper it with moments of satire and surrealism. The director's particular brand of anti-clerical feeling is very evident in the depiction, quite historically accurate, of a grasping and reactionary Catholic church, the military are hapless fools, and the landlords are perverts and slaves to aping the western world. The whole thing boils down to free love and socialism and when it looks as much fun as this then sign me up.
So it's a leftie lark, a revolutionary romp that says make love and praise the revolution. It's camp, it's simplistic and Marx and Engels may not have approved of socialism sold through sex, yet Viva Maria is fantastic fun that makes you laugh and want to join the vanguard of an unlikely upheaval.
Transfer and SoundPresented in 2.35:1 anamorphic wide-screen, there is some underlying print damage but the look of this over 40 year old film is still rather good. The damage consists of flashes of white, hairs and very occasional spots, but the transfer is quite sharp, colourful, and possesses natural levels of grain with fine black levels. I wondered if some colour has been boosted, but I can only imagine that this presentation would improve with restoration. Visually, the quality is quite lovely.
Discs and Special FeaturesThe sole supplement here is a trailer which is in fine condition and ups the ante in terms of selling the film as a romp. The disc is dual layer and region 2 encoded with functional menus and little in the way of thrills.
SummaryViva Maria will appeal to those who love Malle's variety or the spaghetti western. It's a glorious experiment in populist rebel rousing and available with a fine transfer.
8 out of 10
7 out of 10
7 out of 10
3 out of 10