See Barbarella do her thing!
Ever wonder what it might look like if Gianni Versace had directed a Christmas pageant? Me neither, but it probably would have looked something like Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy. It’s a bizarre, futuristic take on Alice in Wonderland, full of beautiful people, quasi-surreal images and dated styles.
It has always fascinated me that you can tell as much about an era by how it chooses to envision the future as you can from the fashions and technology of its own time. Barbarella may be the antithesis of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but they are both iconic artefacts of 1960s futurism. While 2001 was inspired by psychotropic and theological undertones of its era, Barbarella anticipates a year 40,000, wherein a retro craze for late-60s Las Vegas gouache will hold the entire universe in its thrall. Trends to look out for:
Fur lined interior rocket ships: IN!
Physical intercourse: OUT!
Pill-based pleasure simulation: IN!
Political correctness: So, so, sooo OUT!
The boa-clad president of Earth commissions sexy space kitten Barbarella to save the galaxy to by locating a missing scientist named Duran Duran. Barbarella crashes on a planet and almost gets killed by children, meets a very hairy sail sled driver (Ugo Tognazzi), gets laid, finds a handsome blind angel (John Phillip Law), gets laid, finds a maze city, gets laid, finds her way into the city, almost gets laid by the female ‘Great Tyrant’ (Anita Pallenberg) who finds Barbarella ‘pretty, pretty’. She then finds herself in an underground guerilla movement, gets (virtual pill-enhanced) laid by the movement ‘leader’ (David Hemmings), finds the scientist (Milo O’Shea) and gets laid by an organ; yes, I mean an actual organ, with pedals and keys.
Jane Fonda delivers all her lines with wide-eyed amazement, like a sexually liberated version of Dorothy Gale in an erotic Oz. As a sex object, Jane Fonda is at the absolute top of her game in Barbarella. The film was made during a long-term love affair between Fonda and director Roger Vadim, and it shows in every frame. Many directors are in love with their lead, but Vadim’s camera does not linger over Fonda with unrequited desire or fetish, but rather with an impassioned gaze of urgent craving. Even the most hardened Vietnam veteran cannot deny her allure. We can all agree Barbarella is ‘pretty, pretty’ indeed.
Director: Roger Vadim
Writer(s): Vittorio Bonicelli, Claude Brulé, Brian Degas, Jean-Claude Forest (also novel), Tudor Gates, Terry Southern, Roger Vadim, and Clement Biddle Wood
Runtime(s): 98 minutes
Country: France, Italy
Soren McCarthy, Cult Movies In Sixty Seconds: The Best Films In The World In Less Than A Minute, Fusion Press, 2003.