The lasting effect that any given movie has on the world can change as time goes by. Many films aren’t appreciated in their own time, and some films even though they weren’t great when they were released become a major influence on the cinematic world, and therefore are partially responsible for a shift in the ways movies are made. I think that is the best way to describe the popularity and impact of And God Created Woman (1956).
Juliette (Brigitte Bardot) is an 18-year-old orphan, living with an older couple in a French beach town. She is exploding with sexual energy and is not afraid to be open about her desires. She is adored by a wealthy businessman, Eric Carradine (Curd Jurgens), who is attempting to buy coastal properties in order to build a casino. Juliette loves the attention that she receives from Eric, but wants her own sexual needs fulfilled by a younger man with whom she can have a real relationship. One such man is Antoine (Christian Marquand), whose family owns some of the land that Eric wants to buy. Antoine is working outside of town in order to help support his mother and brothers, but one night, after some highly provocative dancing, he promises Juliette that he will take her away with him. She is thrilled by the prospect of starting a life with Antoine and rushes home to pack, instead of having sex with Antoine as he had hoped. The next morning, Juliette leaves her home and waits for the bus carrying Antoine to stop and pick her up. Antoine, however, doesn’t ask the bus to stop because he only said he would take her with him in order to get her to have sex with him.
Devastated, Juliette returns to town only to discover that her guardians have decided to send her back to the orphanage. Eric doesn’t want to see her leave, and tries to convince Antoine to marry her, but to no avail. Antoine’s younger brother, Michel (Jean-Louis Trintienant), has long loved and desired Juliette from afar, and now sees an opportunity to have her for himself. He proposes to Juliette and she accepts even though she admits that she is not in love with him. She even goes as far as telling Michel that she will only bring him trouble.
She certainly lives up to her promise. Juliette clashes with Michel’s mother (Marie Glory) and wants to spend all of her time parading around town in the fewest amount of clothes possible. Michel doesn’t care how she acts because she is more than willing to fulfill all of his sexual desires along the way. Things become complicated when the family sells their shipyard to Eric, and Antoine is able to come back and live with his family again. Now Michel and Juliette’s marriage is in jeopardy thanks to Antoine’s return, and all the men in her life begin to realize how strong their infatuations for Juliette really have become.
And God Created Woman is by no means a great movie. The plot is thin and mostly uninteresting, and the acting is nothing extraordinary. Director Roger Vadim seems far more concerned with showing off his wife, Brigitte Bardot’s, body than anything else. Her sexuality is the true focus of the film, and also the main reason that people remember And God Created Woman at all.
So why is this movie important? Because in 1956, sex was something that wasn’t allowed in American movies. Even movies that were beginning to think outside the normal and excepted studio formula showed couples falling in love in a more conservative view, such as Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows. American audiences were ready for a change, and whether or not they knew it, And God Created Woman was going to give it to them.
After it’s release, And God Created Woman made Brigitte Bardot world famous and highly desired. She became a major sex symbol and is often referred to as the “sex kitten”. In 1957, she and Roger Vadim divorced, but her popularity only continued to grow. She continued to make French films throughout the 1960’s, each one continuing to push the boundaries of sex in the movies.
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