Monday, May 10, 2010

Barbarella (1968)

Director: Roger Vadim
France/Italy 1968
98 min
Starring: Jane Fonda, John Phillip Law, Anita Pallenberg, Milo O'Shea, David Hemmings and Marcel Marceau.

Dildano: [radioing instructions to the rebel army] And our password will be... Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. 
Barbarella: You mean the secret password is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch? 
Dildano: Exactly. 

The password is, by the way, the name of a real village and community in Wales. For its Wikipedia page and some help with the pronunciation, I will gladly provide you with a link.

As much as I adore this film, I almost have to love the tagline more. "Who can save the universe?" Well, it sure as hell isn't Barbarella! She knows how to dress and wear her hair, but she seems to have a hard time not getting distracted by attractive (and also not-very-attractive) men.

Barbarella's (Jane Fonda) initial goal is to find and stop the evil mastermind Durand Durand (Milo O'Shea, and yes - the group Duran Duran got their name from this character), who threatens to interrupt centuries of intergalactic peace with a weapon of mass destruction. (Cold War vibes, anyone?) And the rest of the film is an orgy of cool 1960's music, short skirts (if any), fabulous boots, sarcastic comments and... well, orgies. Although by 1968 filmmakers still had the decency to skip the porn, and instead only indicate all action worthy of Markis de Sade. (At least in the United States - Swedish films made at the same time is another topic indeed.)
The lovely thing with the "promiscuity" is that this sexually active Barbarella actually is saved in the end "by her innocence"! Oh, I should have lived in the 1960's.

I have the feeling that some people may believe that this film objectifies women. And yes, it does. But it objectifies men equally - me and a film classmate drooled immeasurable amounts over the blind angel Pygar (John Phillip Law), and somewhat shamefully over the resistance character suitably named Dildano (David Hemmings). And if pantomime genius Marcel Marceau accepted a part in this movie, one has to be able not to take it too seriously!

The film constantly underlines that it thinks itself ridiculous, most notably by sarcastic one-liners by Barbarella. A couple of examples:
Barbarella is captured in a plastic cage and attacked by a giant flock of birds. After having wined a bit about it, she calmly states that "this is a much too poetic way to die".
Walking in the castle of SoGo (a town named after the biblical Sodom and Gomorra), Barbarella and Pygar hear a scream. She first exclaims, as one would, "What's that screaming?", then follows it up with "A good many dramatic situations begin with screaming..."

Male objectification.
Above: Pygar. Below: Dildano.

What more can I say? I love this film. It's funny, it's over-the-top, it's campy. It is obviously, and rightfully, listed among the "Top 100 Most Amusingly Bad Movies Ever Made" in The Official Razzie Movie Guide. I want that book. The only thing that seemed missing was the indicated, but never fulfilled, female pleasure activities between Barbarella and The Great Tyrant (Anita Pallenberg).

Now to an expose over some of the outfits Jane Fonda manages to switch between during the most weird moments in the film:


will said...

I dunno, I re-watched it about a year ago and was still bored with it. Here's the back story. I saw it when it was first released in San Francisco and, as I recall, the audience, including myself, we kinda wrinkled our collective noses at the film. Yes, Jane was fun to watch, all campy and doing bad acting. The special effects were cheesy and the ending was overly abrupt. Overall, the film just missed. It wasn't that sexy and it wasn't that funny. Mostly it's just an odd film.

monty said...

kooky and wild it and awesome post Lolita. By the way would you like to be my guest in November on my blog. Check out my Be My Guest post and it explains it all. Kori of Blonde Episodes is doing it this month and once she answers the questions I sent her I will post them on my blog and you can get an idea of what it will be like. It would be cool if you can do it. I will need your email so I can send you the questions though. Just send me a reply at Talk to ya later.

shunammite said...

I saw it many years ago, was confused then, watched excerpts on youtube not long ago, that orgasm machine, highly amused this time. I cannot believe how YOUNG you are, to be so appreciative of so many older films! I highly recommend Klute to you (Jane's first Oscar role) if you have not seen it. I have enjoyed your blog so much this morning - nothing better than listening to someone talk about things they love! You write beautifully!

Lolita of the Classics said...

I bet it's just that kind of film you either hate or love!

Sounds fun! I will check it out.

Thanks a lot! And thanks for the Fonda tip. You're very much welcome back!

Anonymous said...

Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
I've been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

Thumbs up, and keep it going!


Anonymous said...

Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
I've been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

Thumbs up, and keep it going!


Jan Van Poeke said...

I saw the film in 1981, well the first half that is. I was immediatly fascinated by the combination of Jane Fonda and SF . Than my father made me go to bed. Heavy protest was useless for I was only 12 years old. To watch the second part I had to wait more than 25 years, but I still remembered the storyline.

Qwiksilver72 said...

This movie is my favorite of all cheesy flix.. Oh to be 11 yrs old agian whn I discovered this!!!!