The Brigitte Bardot Classic Collection
Brigitte & Birkin, oh my ...
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Jan. 22, 2010
The Brigitte Bardot Classic Collection: Plucking the Daisy; The Night Heaven Fell; Don Juan (or If Don Juan Were a Woman)Image Entertainment, $29.98
"At some moment in the career of all great stars there is the miracle of a role which seems made for them. For Brigitte it was Juliette in ... And God Created Woman. She had already made 16 films. Her seventeenth made her a star." So boasts the film's director, Roger Vadim (1928-2000), in Bardot Deneuve Fonda, subtitled "My Life With the Three Most Beautiful Women in the World." That same year, 1956, God's Parisian bombshell also starred in Plucking the Daisy (En Effeuillant la Marguerite), scripted by Vadim. The before-and-after effect is appropriately titillating. Leading off a three-film/3-DVD set that doesn't include ... And God Created Woman (the Criterion DVD remains the standard for Bardot's breakthrough), Plucking the Daisy can offer only black-and-white cinematography in contrast to God's sumptuous seaside Eastmancolor(s), and yet it still manages almost as much skin. An alternate title for Daisy in the U.S. was Mademoiselle Striptease – Bardot enters a striptease contest for cash to replace the Balzac first edition she sold out from under her brother – and given the morality code of classic American films, nudity in French black and whites never fails to shock. That Daisy's first glimpse of Bardot is from behind, then in a tight sweater, signals the filmmakers' onscreen glee with their raw materials. Before Jennifer Lopez's caboose came Bardot's, center screen, climbing over walls, crawling underneath museum ropes, and tantalizingly close to bare in the striptease contest, though the see-through sheer she dons after the contest defines the term consolation prize, never mind her being groped on her bed in one scene. Written and directed by Vadim, The Night Heaven Fell (1958) trades Daisy's light slapstick for color Spanish melodrama. Ursula, straight from the convent, arrives into a Buñuelian house of mystery and dysfunction; promptly falls for Irish-born Stephen Boyd, the first choice for James Bond in Dr. No (today Matt Damon would play Boyd); then finds herself on the lam with her man and his murder charge. Bardot in white underwear at a table with her legs up can still be drooled over on postcards today. Vadim's Don Juan (or If Don Juan Were a Woman) (1973), Bardot's final feature before retirement at the age of 39, might well be the most entertaining title here in the completely indulgent post-New Wave style of 1970s French film. Puffy of face, long blond hair framing smoky hazel eyes, Bardot's ruination of man includes sumptuous sets (her submarine), Vadim's trademark gratuitous nudity, and a god-awful American rock score. Bardot in a frightful Supremes wig next to a stunning Jane Birkin probably got her manager fired, but when she lets her hair down for an extended love scene between the two, it's even hotter than Bardot and Jeanne Moreau at a machine gun in saloon dresses for Viva Maria! (1965). "She took to lovemaking with extraordinary intensity," writes Vadim of his ex-wife. "She was completely physical and, at the same time, the most emotional woman I have ever met."