Viva Brigitte Bardot
Brigitte Bardot: legend, myth, and some say modern day's original sex kitten. A living cultural icon who from every pore excreted the sexual energy that made her rich and too famous for her own good. Followed, stalked and desired by men around the globe, Brigitte was haunted by her fame and was hounded endlessly by press and public. With the fame and fortune that is said to bring happiness, Ms. Bardot was wrought with angst and pain. As an actress and singer, Bardot had a successful and prolific career. As a photographer's target and in her role as the sex kitten, she found stardom.As a social icon, Brigitte was a creation. Not just of nature, but of one man's goal to mold and exploit his young bride. That man was Roger Vadim. They met and fell in love when she was a mere fifteen years old. Though they wanted to wed immediately, they were forced to wait until her eighteenth birthday by Brigitte's well respected, bourgeois family. Vadim took his slight, young, brunette bride and turned her into his sexual image; teaching her how to dress, more importantly, how to undress (you needn't show everything. You tease, slowly slipping off the jacket to reveal the skin-tight dress underneath). Vadim taught her the corkscrew walk that he rightly believed would drive all that American male blood boiling. In his teachings he also instructed her to not reveal her inherent intelligence, but rather to act dumb, a la Ms. Monroe. The men, he supposed, wanted a vulnerable creature. Vadim also believed it was important to not be vulnerable in sexual strength; at this Brigitte must always have the upper hand. The outcome of all his hard work manifested itself in the movie, And God Created Woman. This was Vadim's directorial debut, and he had written the main role solely as a vehicle for his young starlet. Her sexually permissive character reflects the dichotomy that he had created. The film was a success . The name Brigitte Bardot was on everyone's lips.With all of Vadim's plotting and planning Brigitte herself did not have intentions on stardom. She was doing it for love. It was what Roger wanted. Naturally, her native country found her irresistible. They could not seem to get enough of their newest commodity (more popular than Brie or Bordeaux). Brigitte became the spice that scandals are made of. She did not fit the standard roles that a French woman was supposed to adhere to. Her sexual power was threatening to the mainstream ideal. Vadim's creation had succeeded beyond his expectations. But their success could not keep their union solid. Vadim could not provide for Brigitte the attention and support she required. In a move to try to make Vadim jealous, Brigitte began an affair with her co-star in And God Created Woman, Jean-Louis Trintignant. She had developed into the tremptress he had scripted. Vadim's response was of unconcern. Vadim later said " I'd liberated Brigitte and shown her how to be truly herself. That was the beginning of the end of our marriage. From that moment, our marriage went downhill."After divorcing Vadim, she met and married actor Jacques Charrier. In these post-war years it was safer to embrace the standards society was pushing upon her -- marriage and motherhood. Being in the public eye she opted to play by their rules. She had no desire to become a mother but found herself pregnant with Jacques' child. French society enthusiastically embraced this notion of "Mama Brigitte." Poor Jacques eventually succumbed to the pressures of the press and a rabid public. Living under the shadow of his fabulously famous wife resulted in several collapses and a mental breakdown. After her child's birth, Brigitte realized she had no desire for motherhood and announced "I am no mother and I won't be one." She passed the child onto Jacques & his family and rarely saw him.After Jacques and Brigitte separated, she quickly landed in the arms of another man -- her co-star in La Verite -- Sami Frey. Jacques, so torn about losing Bardot, tried to commit suicide not once but twice and brutally attacked her new lover. Meanwhile, the filming of Le Verite was a tough time for Brigitte. The director of the film did not hesitate in manipulating and abusing his cast -- particularly Bardot -- in order to get the right performance. The rigors of filming under such intense pressure coupled with the instability of her off-screen life drove her to the edge. Once the film was completed, she took a much needed break to celebrate her twenty-fifth birthday. As a group of close friends gathered to celebrate, their guest of honor had disappeared. Nervous about the state of mind Brigitte had been in, a search party was assembled. She was promptly found by the neighbor's young child, rolled up into a ball and comatose. She meant business. Not only had she taken a large amount of barbiturates, but she had also slit her wrists. The whole affair enraged her scrutinizing public even more. Not only was she rejecting the sanctity of marriage and motherhood, but she was displaying a disdain for life itself. Ironically, or perhaps by suggestion, her character in La Verite also attempts suicide by slashing her wrists, so Bardot's actions were not altogether original, to say the least.Her next film was clearly a reflection of her own existence. Vie Privee, directed by Louis Malle, and starring Marcello Mastroianni. In this film, Bardot served as the model of her scripted character. They went so far as to inject events from Bardot's own life into the script. The narrative deals with a starlet who is a prisoner of her own fame. Bombarded and trapped, it is a tale of fame ending in disaster. Acting in this film made Bardot quite nervous because it was so clearly a reflection of her own life.As was the case with most of her films, Vie Privee was not well received. She often chose films on the basis of whether or not she thought they were "cute." Her acting was predictable; she played the role of Brigitte Bardot. Brigitte of herself " I play myself, I'm not good enough to play somebody else. that's why I like simple, wild, sexy parts." Of the forty-plus films in her oeuvre, few were received positively; the reason for their existence seemed merely to serve as an arena for audiences to ogle Miss Bardot. She was what they watched, not the stories unfolding. Although the quality of her films left something to be desired, she did get the chance to work with such established auteur directors as Louis Malle (Vie Privee and Via Maria) and Jean Luc Godard (Contempt and Masculin-Feminin).One of the more intriguing aspects of Brigitte Bardot is her singing career. Though not widely known of in the U.S., she had a prolific career in Europe. Her songs portrayed her joie de vivre, her fun-loving, energetic side. She found solace and enjoyment in her singing experiences. She would record with a small group of trusted performers and producers and do her singing magic. Although not a trained or particularly gifted singer, Bardot's style had a certain, how should we say, je' nest ce quoi. She even played guitar on a fundamental level.Bardot had several stints in the music business. In her second go-round, she enlisted the talents of one of France's premier poet/ songwriters, Serge Gainsbourg. Quite a character in his own right, Serge wrote several songs for Brigitte. In 1960, Bardot recorded his "Bubblegum" and in 1967 made a splash with "Bonnie & Clyde" and "Harley Davidson". Bardot asked Serge to write for her the most beautiful love song in the world; his reply was the cult classic "Je t'aime... moi non plus" (I Love You...Me Neither). The song starts off simple enough, but before long the vocal track progresses into a series of moans, a la lovemaking. With Brigitte and Serge whispering "Je t'aime" and groaning lustily, the press went so far as to say they recorded themselves in the true act of copulation. In truth, they had been lovers, but you don't have to be Fellini to have figured that out. "Je t'aime... moi non plus" was not initially released. Bardot's husband, the extremely wealthy German Guntar Sachs, was so enraged by the song's connotations that he would not allow it to be pressed. Gainsbourg locked the master tape away and 'claimed' it would stay there forever. Gainsbourg later re-recorded the song (and made a hit) with his British wife, Jane Birkin, and the press made the same "they're doing it!" allegation. Years later Birkin was cast as Bardot's female lover in Don Juan. Being nervous about their nude scene, Brigitte suggested they sing a song. The only song they both knew the words to was "Je t'aime...", prompting them to break into an amusingly passionate rendition.By the end of her singing career Bardot had pressed four full-length LPs and oodles of singles. She produced the popular Brigitte Bardot Show which served as a stage for her to perform her hits. Early on in her singing pursuits, rock video-type films were generated for each of her songs. These have, unfortunately, rarely been shown outside of France. Her first album was produced in 1963, and her last single in 1982, just a hair shy of a twenty year stint.With her acting and singing careers behind her, Bardot now lives as a recluse in Saint Tropez, France. Brigitte has found salvage in her animal rights work, protecting the lives of helpless animals; perhaps a metaphor for her own lost innocence and exploitation. She rarely ventures out into public and puts her time and money into the protection of animals. She founded the Brigitte Bardot Foundation (4 rue Franklin 75116 Paris France) to further her cause. Brigitte still makes headlines but no longer for her beauty and charm but rather the controversial actions she occasionally takes in the name of animals. As an icon, Brigitte lives on. With a large body of work behind her she has successfully escaped the world of stardom. Now in her sixties, she has finally found the peace and serenity she'd yearned for.