Thursday, September 20, 2012

Barbarella (1968) Review

Director: Roger Vadim
Stars: Jane Fonda
Genre: Science fiction, Sex Comedy

My goodness, this is pulp science-fiction at its finest.

The film starts out with Barbarella dressed in a spacesuit floating around in a zero gravity room with furry carpet on the walls and ceiling. She then proceeds to strip out of the spacesuit until she is naked, all still while floating in zero gravity and while a 60s pop song plays. That 5 or so minute opening really sums up the film perfectly. Sex + Sci-Fi + 60s = Barbarella. 

The film never takes itself serious and it even makes fun of itself a few times through. I can only imagine this must have been fun as hell for the actors to film. It's pure light-hearted pulp B-movie goodness. Everything from the film to the poster art and misleading subtitle "Queen of the Galaxy" this film breathes pulp sci-fi. The entire film, from effects to plot to visuals to the light-hearted nature, for me, is very reminiscent of Forbidden Planet.

Jane Fonda is of course beautiful, but so are the great set and costume designs. They intentionally make Barbarella ruin her clothing so she can show off in a new costume. I found myself looking forward to seeing what retro outfit she'd put on next (partly because Fonda is stunning, partly because the costume design is awesome, and partly because of my personal interest in fashion). 

The entire film kind of felt like a porno film to me. Not because there's a lot of sex or nudity (there's not), there are only implied sex scenes and no explicit on-screen ones, and there is only some brief nudity here and there. It felt like a porno film because somehow, throughout the film, it always feels like someone is about to have sex. It always seems as if that is what the scene is leading up to, but it never does. Not that that's a disappointment; the film is just filled with tons of sexual tension and innuendos.

Barbarella review

It also seemed like nearly every single character was either trying to fuck Barbarella or Barbarella was trying to fuck them. I'm serious. Numerous characters try to have sex with her, and many succeed. Barbarella sleeps with some hairy grizzly man, the leader of a resistance, and she even fucks a fucking angel for Christ's sake. Even all the woman in the film are trying to get into Barbarella's pants. By the end of the film Barbarella is such a slut that the Excessive Machine (a machine designed to sexually pleasure you to death) won't work on her because it can't keep up with her and it eventually malfunctions, leaving Barbarella pleasured but not dead.

The scene in the resistance base was pretty damn hilarious too. And Dildano was an awesome character. 

Aside from great set and costume design this film, believe it or not, actually has some genuine artistic merit. The cinematography I found to be fairly good (for a film of such nature, that is). There were some cool shots and overall the film is pretty visually appealing (and I'm not just talking about Fonda). 

The soundtrack had some great 60s pop tunes. 

Barbarella review

It's sexy, it's campy, it's cheesy, it's funny, it's retro, it's 60s, it's French-y, it's awesome.  And ultimately it achieves its goal of translating the erotic pulp Barbarella comics it's based on to film. Though I haven't read the comics thoroughly, it seems that this is one of the best and most truthful adaptions I've seen. 

Of course the plot is silly and ridiculous, but that's what makes it great. Would you really watch this movie for its plot? And sure Barbarella isn't a particularly kick-ass heroine. She is very easily knocked unconscious and her best defense is screaming for help. But none of that matters, and it seems that all of it was intentional. 

And to those who think Barbarella is sexist, well sure Barbarella is kind of a helpless bimbo who uses sex to her advantage (but also for pleasure), but the original Barbarella comics (and the film as well I suppose) did help start and fuel the Sexual Revolution in the 60s. So there's that I guess. 

Some quotes from the film:
"This is a much too poetic way to die."

"A life without cause is a life without effect."

"I'll do things to you that are beyond all known philosophies! Wait until I get my devices!"

Among many others.

The last line of the film is given to the angel, in which he says: "An angel has no memory." I found that pretty funny. Seems like they're implying that no one can be good for as long as they know all the bad, i.e., ignorance is bliss. The angel is also blind so that seems to prove that that's what they were going for. 

So the greatest film ever made? No, I suppose not. But it's enjoyable as hell and very rewatchable. I don't think I'd change very much about the film even if I could.

5 stars

Purchase Barbarella on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - Stream

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