The fabled opening has the CinemaScope frame filled by the bare form of one Brigitte Bardot, behind on a clothesline is a white bedsheet like the blank movie screen—it might be a Boucher nude, except that it's Roger Vadim on the Côte d’Azur with Eastmancolor. (Hitchcock had just wrapped To Catch a Thief.) Named Hardy, the heroine is nevertheless closer to Daisy Mae than to Bathsheba Everdene, une fille du soleil luxuriating in sex and sand and music to the delectation and exasperation of local menfolk. At the crossroads on a bicycle, her derriere can magnetize a busload of lechers: "See the girl? Her ass is a song." Three clods around a babe, a mock-Renoirian equation, the nerd (Jean-Louis Trintignant), the cad (Christian Marquand) and the tycoon (Curd Jürgens) encircle the barefoot coquette. Married life is the great challenge (she never looks more helplessly lewd or more poignant than in her bridal gown), Trintignant's meek shipyard worker meanwhile eats his spinach and prevails in this "story about the worm who loves a star." Basically a stack of gaudy French postcards splayed in raffish elongated compositions, a horizontal image that suddenly turns circular (the camera pans over to a concave mirror) and a seduction that moves from a flaming sailboat to behind a bent tree trunk on the beach. All of Vadim's Gauguin blues and reds however remain mere backdrops to his showcasing of Bardot's kittenish rawness, a pouty blur of tousled hair sashaying around a jukebox, spilling out of dress after dress, and writhing to a Mambo beat—a blithe icon for Right Now pleasure, since "all the future does is spoil the present." The best analytical studies are by Godard (Le Mépris) and Wesselmann (Great American Nude No. 94 1/2), unless it's Vadim's own Eighties retelling with De Mornay in Santa Fe. With Jane Marken, Jean Tissier, Isabelle Corey, Marie Glory, and Georges Poujouly.
--- Fernando F. Croce