...And God Created Woman

...And God Created Woman ★★★

Catapulting the posterior charms of Brigitte Bardot to international fame seven years before Jean-Luc Godard immortalized them in cheeky, tri-color glory in Contempt, Roger Vadim capitalizes on his then-wife’s extraterrestrial allure in the shallow sex drama, ...And God Created Woman. The entirety of Saint-Tropez suspiciously scrutinizes local orphaned coquette, Juliette (Bardot), a bodacious Venus in the form of a well-developed, libertine, 18 year-old blonde—offending provincial propriety by her very appearance, in addition to being “shameless, impolite and also lazy”. 

Juliette is the quintessential sex kitten, and prefers freewheeling nights of carousing, dancing and flirtation with the village’s most eligible bachelors to the mundanity of domestic life and her humdrum job at the book shop. She ensnares the attention of three primary admirers, all of whom have their own selfish designs on her, but it is the earnest yet naive Michel (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who offers Juliette marriage when her foster family arranges to return her to the orphanage, essentially ensuring her destitution and obscurity. Believing he can reform her siren sensibilities with the stability of domestic serenity, he blossoms from sheepish would-be suitor to adoring husband. Juliette, however, is laden with ennui—reverting to her wild child ways and pursuing her enduring desire for Michel’s wanton brother Antoine.

Juliette is presented as sexually liberated, though in the conservative milieu this sensuality comes at a high cost. She is judged, ostracized, and despised by both men and women, and her behavior is magnified by her physicality. Though men covet her, they don’t respect her—a trope well-worn in the representation of dissolute women. Juliette is also portrayed as stupid, careless, selfish, unsympathetic, arrogant, frivolous, capricious, indolent and rude—her only virtues are physical, so her sexual emancipation, rather than being framed as a feminist view of sexuality, manifests more as a maladaptive coping strategy for her unstable childhood and as a cure-all for attaining what she wants (whether it be perceived respect or love, acceptance, validation, gifts, etc). Her sexuality is her only commodity, and her formative experience with men coupled with her limited education and life experience has shaped how she should exercise trading on that commodity and her response to the overtly misogynist stimuli within the film.

When Antoine slut-shames her, she responds by denying him sex and attempting to make him jealous with another man. Yet, it’s all a ruse, because she has been conditioned to respond to his bad boy chauvinism with elaborate stratagems to eventually ensnare his affections. Her spite marriage to Michel obviously has the subtext of the ultimate ploy to destroy Antoine’s ego while simultaneously stoking his desire by being unavailable. And though she attempts to play housewife for a time, she doesn’t stop until she has consummated the cat-and-mouse gambit, realizing her reputation as the strumpet everyone accused her of being and securing Antoine’s derision after their shipwrecked dalliance. She then completely ignores the scorned Michel until he succumbs to the only toxic machismo Juliette will respond to, viciously slapping her around in public—to which she demurely simpers, rebranding Michel as something of an authoritative stud—effectively heralding an abusive element into their relationship as an unhealthy nostrum for their already dysfunctional marriage.

The lurid colors and seaside setting make amends for some of the odious sexual politics, and Bardot is preternaturally breathtaking, well-deserving of her sex icon status. Her untamed dance in the film’s finale is an exhilarating spectacle that symbolizes Juliette’s repressed identity and epitomizes her most innocent of tenets: girls just want to have fun.

cuckoochanel liked these reviews