Foreign Film Friday -And God Created Woman (1956)

SUMMARY

Juliete Hardy is a sensually precocious young woman without anyone to love her. She has been raised in an orphanage and taken in by the Vigier-Lefrancs. Her reputation in St. Tropez is well-known. Madame Vigier-Lefrancs finally threatens to return Juliete to the orphanage after she catches her chatting in the nude with the wealthy but older Eric Carradine.

But Juliete only has eyes for Christian Tardieu, the eldest son and breadwinner of the Tardieu family.  Because of this she refuses to commit to Carradine and also spurns the advances of Christian’s quiet but steady younger brother Michel. Christian promises to take her with him when he goes back to Marseilles if she will spend the night with him. But when he breaks his promise he sets into motion Juliete’s revenge. It is a revenge that will entangle Juliete with all three men and almost cost her a chance at the love she yearns for.

MY THOUGHTS

I have long been aware of And God Created Woman. Directed by famed French screenwriter, director and producer Roger Vadim, it is also the film which launched Brigitte Bardot into international stardom.

Bardot is perfect as the sexually aggressive Juliete. This film features many shots of her in various states of undress which is probably one of the reasons it garnered so much attention. Like American sex symbol Marilyn Monroe, she has the skill of being both seductive and innocent at the same time. She is utterly believable as a young woman who is skilled with men, yet who engenders a protective feeling not only in Michel and Carradine, but in the audience. She knows exactly what she is doing, yet you get the sense that her own sexuality is almost more powerful than she is.

I was surprised to find the sugar daddy character Carradine is actually one of the few gentlemen in the film. At first he comes across as a lecher, but as the story progresses, he also seems to develop an almost fatherly interest in Juliete while still being attracted to her. He watches out for her behind the scenes and never forces anything on her she doesn’t want. Of all the men, he understands Juliete’s motivations and desires best.

The same can not be said of Christian. There is no reason for Juliete to love him, but it is almost an obssession with her. His character continues to erode as the movie goes on and he becomes more and more despicable. He has no true concern for Juliete and only wants to use what she so generously gives.

His brother Michel on the other hand is the only men of the three who really loves Juliete.  His love is a blind and hopeful one. He has no true understanding of Juliete as Carradine does. Instead he believes that she is better than she is. This motivates her to live up to his belief and devastates her when she fails. Still, he is faithful and forgiving.

I’ll be honest and say I had some problems with this film.  I felt that the way Bardot is constantly filmed semi-nude is a bit exploitative and voyeuristic. Neither can I condone the way Juliete teases the men and uses her body to gain their favor. But I also ached for her, because I realized that she was so lonely and only wanted to be loved. As she tells the disapproving, judgmental Tardieu matriarch, maybe she just needed a friend.

I also hated the way that almost everyone in the film judges Juliete instead of trying to help her. The men call her terrible names when they are the ones lusting after her. She is degraded, despised, gossiped about, and misunderstood.It’s really hard to watch such hypocrisy even if it’s only in a film.  Still, she keeps fighting to find joy in life and someone to love.

And God Created Woman is one of those films which after first glance reveals a lot below the surface. Initially, I found the focus on a young girl’s use of her sexuality rather shallow. But then I realized how that focus forces the viewer to examine their own thoughts and beliefs on the subject. I also realized that Juliete’s sexuality is just a disguise for her deep need for love and belonging. And that is something everyone can relate to no matter how we go about that search.

Related: Foreign Film Friday -La Parisienne (1957)

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