Barbarella

Roger Vadim, 1968 France/ Italy, 98 mins

In the 41st century Barbarella (Jane Fonda) is sent to thwart the schemes of the evil Black Queen. After surviving several kinky encounters, including tantric sex with a blind angel who can no longer fly and an attack by killer dolls with razor-sharp teeth, Barbarella defeats the Black Queen and the galaxy is restored to peace.

If you like camp/kitsch or the thought of a semi-clad Jane Fonda c.1968 then Barbarella is the film for you. If you like meaningful content, stylistic innovation or any of that serious cinema stuff then it isn't (unless, of course, you happen to be interested in constructing a thesis about how the casual sexism of Barbarella maybe isn't really all that harmless deep down when you think about it; something Fonda herself probably got more into a few years later in the wake of "Hanoi Jane", Klute and Tout va Bien). It's not a film that tries to break barriers or provide deep and meaningful commentary on the nature and meaning of life - it's a film which sets out to entertain and does so with considerable panache. What more do you need to know?

How about that Barbarella's director, Roger Vadim, might just be the most important director since 1950 without ever actually making an outstanding film, although he did produce some highly enjoyable films. His Bridget Bardot star-vehicle And God Created Woman (1956) created an atmosphere conducive to low-budget films from young directors in France. So we got the nouvelle vague of Godard, Truffaut etc. And, without them we might never have had the likes of Scorsese and Tarantino in the USA or Wong Kar Wai in Hong Kong etc etc. Perhaps Vadim is the fertiliser director - his shit nurtured the growth of other, better, directors and films. Finally, just in case there's any trivia buff out there who isn't yet aware of it, the 80s pop group Duran Duran derived their name from a robot in Barbarella. What a tribute that must have been!

Keith H. Brown
EUFS Programme 1998-99