Friday, January 20, 2012

Decent Circumvention of Reality

I hate when a movie arguing that stripping liberates women refrains from showing nudity. What better way to show your convictions aren't even skin deep? Viva Maria! is a silly fantasy war film I wouldn't necessarily call inept, I think it's a well made film for people who have a very different sense of humour than me. This one's for people who liked Operation Petticoat.

The story follows Marie and Mary, played by Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moraeu respectively, a pair of burlesque performers who wind up leading a revolution in 1907 Mexico. Marie is from Ireland, and she grew up with her father, the two of them regularly conducting terrorist attacks against the English. Mary is already performing with a travelling circus in France as part of an act with another woman who commits suicide just as Marie comes on the scene, so Marie joins Mary in the act, bringing with her the innovation of stripping.

The troupe travels to Mexico and hijinks ensue. There are a lot of people who would say that because it's a comedy of sorts, the violence shouldn't be realistic or seem genuinely threatening. Though I'm not exactly sure I can call it a comedy--it's labelled as an adventure film, and according to Wikipedia, the idea was to have a straight forward Western where the two heroes happen to be women. I'd have liked to have seen Brigitte Bardot in such a movie, but not this. The lowest point, for me, was when Marie and Mary are captured by a warlord and taken to his chambers in his hacienda. The women prevent him from raping them by staring at him.

There are people who would be delighted by the idea of women defeating the brutish nature of men with nothing but prettiness and willpower but I find it depressing and naive. Sometimes I was able to dig the cartoonish humour, though. This was my favourite shot in the film;

The sight convinces the man to continue on foot.

I also liked Bardot swinging through the trees and carrying a cartoonish, spherical black bomb. But the movie ends up not being especially empowering for the women as they spend the film's climactic battle held captive by the enemy, basically reduced to damsels in distress. So it's a strikingly shallow film, even more so to-day as I read about the Iranian actress exiled from her country for posing nude.

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