...And God Created WomanThis is an odd entry for the Criterion Collection. It is significant in the history of popular culture but as a movie And Created Woman hasn't enjoyed the best reputation among film snobs. At best it's a guilty pleasure.
The plot is pretty simple. Juliete Hardy (played by Brigitte Bardot) is a vivacious and sexy 19 year old living on the coast of France. She drives all the local men wild including millionaire developer Carradine (played by Stromberg himself Curt Jurgens.) Juliete is in love with the dashing Antoine, but he only sees her as a one night stand. Juliete is an orphan and her foster parents threaten to send her back to the orphanage. Desperately in love Antoine's brother Michel offers to marry Juliete so she can stay in the town she loves. She accepts though she has her doubts.
Juliete makes the effort and finds herself falling in love Michel. But a deal with Carradine brings Antoine back to town and things take a turn for the... well a little odd really. The ending involves Juliete dancing a mambo. From the look on Michel's face you'd think she was attending a Larry Flynt pool party.
Strangely enough I found something of value in the much maligned story. I think I get what director Roger Vadim was going for. All the character types of a typical romance are present. Juliete is the heroine who is helpless before fate. The dashing true love, Antoine. The sinister villain Carradine and the brother who marries the girl but can't win her love. At least that's how it's supposed to go. But here everything is twisted around. Antoine, if anything is the villain here. This all starts because he sees Juliete as a one night stand instead of a serious relationship. Even when he comes back he never treats her any better. Michel has a few noble moments but ultimately he can't deal with the fact that Juliete is a sexual creature with her own desires. If there's a good guy in all of this it's Carradine. He has the ability to deal with Juliete as she is. At one point he even calls out Antoine on his sexist BS. And finally Juliete is far from helpless. She has her own will and her own desires. In the end she stays with Michel because deep down she wants to. There is no scene where Michel breaks the wild girl. If anything the wild girl has broken Michel. This movie came out around the time the Kinsey Report was turning the ideas of sex all around. The sexual revolution was just around the corner. Vadim was giving the world a taste of what was to come.
The film has gorgeous visuals. The story is an historical oddity. This could only work back then.