Published Jan 24, 2013French director Roger Vadim's 1956 feature (his first)—the film that launched the career of legendary beauty Brigitte Bardot—is a bizarre artefact of a time when smacking a broad in the chops could be perceived as a romantic gesture.
And God Created Woman is a conflicted depiction of how society responds to sexual liberty in women. While the text purports to be compassionate towards the playful immodesty of eighteen year-old Juliete Hardy, Vadim displays a limited perspective that's more concerned with leering and controlling sexually aggressive female behaviour than actual acceptance or understanding.
The plot is a bunch of immaterial fluff constructed to provide an excuse for Bardot's Juliet to cavort in various states of undress, and for Vadim to make sexist assertions about the mental state of libidinous (i.e. outwardly horny) members of the fairer sex. His thin membrane of libertarianism is easily punctured, even though there is some obvious truth to depression and abandonment issues being at the root of promiscuity in many cases.
Shot with a lush and specific colour palette of rich reds and yellows (to represent the rampant passion and jealousy Juliete inspires in every man who fixes her with his gaze), the loose plot follows the young sexpot as she flirtatiously bounces from man to man, trying to find love and someone to marry her so that she won't be taken back to the orphanage after her foster mother tires of her scandalous habits of sunbathing in the nude and (gasp!) walking around barefoot.
In the background, there's an insubstantial subplot about a wealthy businessman (Curd Jurgens) who's trying to buy up beachfront property in St. Tropez in order to build a casino, but is cock-blocked by the stubborn Tardieu family, who own a shipyard smack dab in the middle of the development zone.
Juliete has a thing (the French seem comfortable calling every crush and infatuation love) for eldest brother Antoine (Christian Marquand), but when he proves to have eyes only for her vagina, she agrees to marry the shy middle brother, Michel (a handsome young Jean-Louis Trintignant).
Despite early attempts to be a good wife, her inability to accept happiness is a self-sabotaging bid to make Michel loathe her the way she loathes herself.
With a contradictory narrow-minded viewpoint driving Michel's unconditional passion (love?), any claims of sexual enlightenment are rendered moot and what's left to leave an impression is some truly awful audio synching (a pompous jazz club drummer is twirling his brushes during every downbeat), laughably phoney fight choreography and the relentless but modest exploitation (the way Vadim covers Bardot's naughty bits is clearly the inspiration for every Austen Powers intro) of Juliet's nubile form.
And God Created Women screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of the Man and a Woman: Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva retrospected at 7:30pm on Saturday, January 26th. (Cocinor)