Sunday, January 24, 2010

Barbarella 1968

“An angel doesn’t make love, an angel is love”


I have seen Barbarella several times in the past. However, every time I see it I read new things. This film version of the popular French comic strip by Jean-Claude Forest, directed by Roger Vadim. Jane Fonda who by the way looks amazing, plays a sexy yet innocent space-age heroine in the year 40,000 A.D. who gets herself into a series of situations presented as small adventures that take place in a series of different and fantastic atmospheres. Barbarella opens with the titular heroine stripping down to nothing in zero gravity among strategically placed credits. From there Barbarella embarks on a mission to find a peace-threatening young scientist named Duran Duran (Milo O'Shea) by order of the president of Earth. En route, falls in love with a blind angel named Pygar played by John Philip Law. Remaining true to its comic book origins, Barbarella's adventure unfolds in a series of dramatic difficulties and unlikely solutions, the movie moves very fast and gives way with sensation and excess for Mario Garbuglia's hallucinatory set design to dazzle us. David Hemmings (Antonioni’s Blow Up) is part of the cast, and featuring dialogue by novelist Terry Southern, among others, Barbarella is not only a comic sci-fi sex romp but also a sly, tongue-in-cheek portrait of the legendary debauchery of that era. With extraordinary costumes designed Jacques Fonteray, inspired on Paco Rabane, generally involving some plastic forms, hairy surfaces and sheerness. 

This movie can be understood as an experimentation of the idea of emotions and sensations produced by using classic and sometimes cliché film situations. Barbarella finds herself in a series of machinic contraptions that replace the idea of mundane sex, which even on earth is no longer a simple physical experience, considered a waste of time, the sensations must be enhanced by other devices; whether chemical, visual mechanical or ultimately atmospheric.  These are; the Excessive machine that gives her the ultimate orgasm while Beethoven’s 9th symphony is the soundtrack, the Hitchcockian biting bird cage, the chamber of dreams, the labyrinth of love, the deadly doll house and the palace of pleasure.

Visually rich in every way, the plot and the dialogue are sublimated for visual experiences and in order for Barbarella to find Duran Duran she must go through all of those sensations. The film is more contemporary than ever. 

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