Viva Maria! Louis Malle

This French costume extravaganza has one eye on the sexy-fluff crowd and one eye on armchair activists — hey, it was the '60s, that sort of thing happened. Brigitte Bardot stars as the first Maria, a career revolutionary circa 1910, who after blowing up her hapless father in Latin America falls in with some traveling vaudevillians. There she meets her destiny in the form of Maria II (Jeanne Moreau), a singer/dancer who's just lost her partner; Maria-Bardot picks up the slack for Maria-Moreau, and before they know it they've invented the striptease! The early segments of the film are screechy and annoying, with the cloistered Bardot finally getting girly and Moreau dispensing dubious advice for the lovin' novice, but once they fall in with messianic insurrectionist George Hamilton (you read that right), the joke of the film kicks into high gear. Suddenly the Marias are toppling a banana republic with their rag-tag band of tumblers and daredevils, and what was merely silly blossoms into the majestically ludicrous. The film is cynically designed to play to both uncommitted adult fun-seekers and moon-eyed young leftists, and its conflation of revolution and striptease is questionable to say the least. But put that out of your mind and you might enjoy its brightly colored and mostly harmless entertainment, and be surprised by the chemistry between France's top female draws. One wishes that it had a little more ambition (which director Louis Malle was known to have), as it dissolves ten minutes after you see it, but wind up at home on a Saturday night and you could do considerably worse. It's worth it alone for the Vatican secret agents and their antiquated torture chamber. (MGM)