Thursday, 3 April 2008

If Don Juan Were a Woman (1973)

Roger Vadim seems to be regarded with more or less universal disdain as a film-maker. He certainly had his weaknesses, but his 1973 outing Don Juan ou Si Don Juan était une femme... (Don Juan, or If Don Juan Were a Woman is actually rather interesting. Brigitte Bardot is a woman who believes she was once a man, in fact she was once Don Juan, and she treats men the way Don Juan treated women – they’re just conquests to be made, notches to be carved into her bedstead. This could be seen as Vadim’s rather confused take on feminism, or even as a kind of misogynistic paranoia, but in practice it’s rather more interesting. Partly this is because of Bardot’s remarkably detached performance, and because the movie makes no attempt to psychoanalyse her or to speculate on why she behaves the way she does. And although she behaves rather badly most of the men she becomes involved with behave in much more reprehensible ways – as soon as they don’t get what they expect from a woman they resort to violence. And does she really behave badly, or does she simply behave the way so many wealthy powerful men behave? Does she treat sex simply as a means to power? She appears to get little actual pleasure from it. The movie seems to be using the gender reversal to day some fairly pertinent things about male attitudes towards love and sex. And although Vadim has a reputation for being a somewhat exploitative director, there’s no explicit sex and, for a 1973 movie, very little nudity. What it does have is fairly imaginative direction, and some wonderful sets – she lives in a female version of Jason King’s groovy bachelor pad!

Not a great movie, and not one that entirely succeeds, but it’s still worth a look if you have a taste for odd but intriguing movies.

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