Roger Vadim :: France/ Italy :: 1968 :: 1h38

40,000 AD. The innocent and sensual Barbarella (Jane Fonda) is drifting through space in her fluffy shoe-box spacecraft, when she receives a call from the President. He needs her for a special mission to track down a potentially dangerous character called Durand-Durand, who has a developed a weapon in a universe which had become completely peace-and-love pacifist. She sets out to find him, leading her from one encounter to another, all of which are influenced by their attraction to the naive, accommodating young Barbarella.

When you consider a film which opens with Barbarella taking a call with the president in the nude, you know you are in for a ride. By the time the conversation ends, he closes with a flirtatious suggestion that they meet “in the flesh”. The tone has been set, so that when her first encounter on a foreign planet actually asks for sex directly(!), Barbarella is not remotely surprised. Although… she explains that on earth people have not made love for centuries, preferring a kind of pill induced psychedelic mind melt. To reply to the man’s disorientation, Barbarella explains that sex “was proved to be distracting and a danger to maximum efficiency”. And if you think that is the last absurdity you are going to hear, wait for some other little gems to come along: when was the last time you heard this phrase in a film: “De-crucify my angel” ?

The humour and visual spectacle -primarily focussed on the beautiful Barbarella and her revealing outrageous space clothes- carry the film well, breathing the atmosphere of the sexy comic book series by Jean-Claude Forest. The movie version could hardly have been anything other than camp, with psychedelic lava lamp special effects and clumsy models blowing up, but the sunny side of camp saves it: the extravagant sets and costumes which change from one encounter to the next (she keeps losing her clothes!), the out-of-this-world exchanges and the sexy naive 60s fantasy atmosphere which, in our current society, seems light years away. If it was not for Barbarella.

NB It was recorded simultaneously in French and English. (A good fansite)


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