Sunday, August 8, 2010

Girls On Film: Barbarella (1968) Review

Barbarella is pure camp. Actually, to describe Barbarella as "camp" is a bit like describing that bloke, who over-eats and explodes, in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life as "chubby". Barberella is really very camp.

Barbarella the film opens with Barbarella the character (Jane Fonda) weightlessly floating around her small fur lined space craft, seductively removing her cumbersome space suit as she does. This opening scene is a bit of a tease for two reasons. One, Jane Fonda bares her breasts in the scene, promising a film that is going to be more salacious than it actually is. Two, it contains the only visual effect in the whole film that’s even moderately convincing. Nude women, cool special effects: this movie is going to be awesome. Bzzz… wrong answer.

Shortly after Barbarella's weightless strip-tease she receives a video communication from the president of Earth instructing her of her latest mission: to seek out the evil Dr Durand-Durand who has in his possession a destructive weapon that the president fears could be used against the peace loving inhabitants of Earth.

Like colourful kids' party ware, the plot is completely disposable. It's basically an excuse to string together a series of innuendo riddled encounters Barbarella has with various bizarre characters, in various bizarre costumes, on various bizarre sets thrown together in, what I can only assume was, drug induced enthusiasm, at Paramount studios in 1968. At no point does the film look like its taking place anywhere other than a film studio.

Barbarella is a lot of fun, in its own bizarre kind of way. Some of the laughs are intentional. Some of the laughs are unintentional. And with many of the laughs it’s difficult to know what the intent was. It's the sort of film that makes me wish I had a time-machine. Not to go forward to the future depicted in Barbarella, but to go back to a time when films like this got made. It's as inventive as it is tacky.

I'm not sure whether this film would register as such a loud blip on the popular culture radar if it weren't for those 1980’s pop stars, and purveyors of hair gel, Duran Duran. But it is a very curious piece of film-making that is good for a laugh and at a modest ninety minute run time doesn't out stay its welcome.

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