Brigitte Bardot, model, singer, actress and activist headlines this curious and relatively unheralded French film from the early 1960’s. It plays to her status as a peerless object of desire, but is a curious combination of sexually frank without being especially explicit. Bardot, for reasons never really elucidated, feels drawn to this strange suicidal Frenchman (a compelling and convincing Robert Hossein) and he gradually comes to exert an unhealthy amount of influence and control over her. Genevieve begins as a relatively virginal character, but Renaud quickly has her disrobed, cavorting with him in bed and vacuuming in the nude. Curious.
Although they remain isolated in her apartment for a prolonged period, eventually they venture out into Paris and encounter a peculiar mix of musicians and artists, all the while Renaud sponges off Genevieve before finally showing his true colours as a manipulator and lustful field-player. At one point he propositions and gropes a prostitute in front of Genevieve, causing her to finally flee and break off all ties with Renaud, but you always sense that the hooks are still embedded, that all is not yet well.
Despite being an interesting enough character and psychological study, the film is insufficiently incident-packed to fill out or justify the 100-minute running time. Instead we get an awful lot of overwrought melodrama and no real understanding of why Genevieve pursued this man and allowed him into her life. It is undoubtedly an unconventional film and many will be drawn to its striking sense of time and place and Hossein’s excellently played sociopath. The title makes it sound like a Doris Day/Rock Hudson fluff piece (the original transliteration of the French title, Warrior’s Rest/Repose, didn’t do any better) but it is far from that stylistically or thematically, even if the perfectly transferred Technicolour contrasting makes it feel like that period and genre.
Bardot has played better and better known roles, but she is an undisputable screen presence, even if it takes her smile to really light up the screen. On a perhaps trifling, but nonetheless pertinent tangent, the dialogue is pretty rapid fire, which means you will have to keep up with swift subtitles, possibly to the detriment of the on-screen action receiving your full attention, but such is the life of a viewer of foreign language films.
At times, the existential angst makes the film slightly hard work and the ambiguous ending that does not resolve matters especially cleanly will grate with those accustomed to more conventional narrative arcs, but there is a certain amount to enjoy here if this is your sort of thing. You can either catch it on DVD to rent from 19th March, or try your hand at our competition here.
Extras: None (or at least none on the copy I reviewed).