Monday, May 28, 2007

Barbarella: lessons moral and cultural

I'll start with a quote from director De Laurentis, "Barbarella is the ultimate science-fiction adventure heroine - smart, strong and sexy." I beg to differ Mr. Director -- she was passive, dumb and submissive. Not to say that the movie wasn't genius, it was -- but the heroine sure wasn't.

The genius of the movie was the balls-out visual kitsch it provides. Many of the special affects are done with oils dripped on glass and lit with colored gels. One of the most commonly-used stage props is huge clear plastic bags inflated with air. The ridiculous sets are so outlandish and cheaply made they are Fellini-esque. The inside of her spaceship is covered with thick fake fur for crissakes! T. dubbed it the "fur cave" (double-entendre intentional). Of course the dialog, the "characterization," and the story are also completely off the wall.

What I saw in the heroine was wide-eyed passivity in the face of menace. She couldn't walk across her own space ship without tripping and falling. She had sex with everyone who helped her, and was ready to reluctantly have sex with with anyone who insisted themselves upon her. In movie critic nomenclature, her type is called "ultra-innocent." I understand that this was the time of "free love" and she was supposed to come from a culture completely without violence and complicity -- so she was being presented as some kind of innocent savant, but it still comes across (to me, in this time and place) as idiot savant. Or just idiot, really.

Young Fonda is very beautiful, so hey you can't complain TOO much. Or at least I couldn't. To the movie's credit, her outfits were fantastic -- really fantastic. Generous exposure of skin, lots of flashy plastic, fake fur, straps and tails. Completely over the top and obviously the inspiration for much of the soft-core Sci-Fi "art" that happened since then.

So yeah, the movie is definitely not P.C. It's not well written, it's dated, it's not particularly well shot -- but it is immensely entertaining for those in the right head-space. I know plenty of folks who sit through art-house films and tell themselves they enjoy the experience -- why not sit through an icon of a movie and actually enjoy it.

In the final calculation, T. and I decided that the highest use of this film is as a drinking game. Simply drink every time: Fonda falls down, has sex, is taken hostage, goes unconscious, or changes clothes on-screen. You could easily make a more exhaustive list, but this short one will get you hammered not 10 minutes into the movie.



Shocho said...

She's not a model heroine, to be sure. However, the movie holds up for me because it is so relentlessly weird. Sure, it's cheesy, corny and boring, but it's just so... weird.

There's nothing else quite like it, and in my book, that's something.

The comic strip was pretty good, by the way.

CtheG said...

This should be published in a magazine. great writing. Loved reading this. Can't you be a movie critic on the side for all the movies you rent?

Bpaul said...

I agree Shoch, it's a classic. The Wife can't stand how helpless and dumb she is, and I can understand that. But for my money, it's still totally watchable.

Thanks Ms. The Great -- This wasn't my strongest piece of writing, but I think I managed to get across some pretty conflicted feelings about the thing LOL. I am daydreaming about some sort of small writing gig, the more I get into this blog.

What a job Dan Savage has, for instance. Not a bad gig.

Thanks for the encouragement.


Pacze Moj said...

...and Fonda was Vadim's wife when he made this.

Ain't that even extra kinky!

Bpaul said...

Great Trivia Bit!

Bpaul said...

Very cool blog too Pacze. Thanks for stopping by.