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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 16 September 2010
Viva Maria is a wonderfully sexy, screwball, and at times surreal period comedy starring the two great French sex symblos of the Sixties - Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau. I must admit that when I first saw this film way back then, I was primarily attracted to the obvious charms of La Bardot. But now that I am older and wiser (well, older anyway) I can fully appreciate the subtle sensuality of Jeanne Moreau whose gorgeous eyes alone could seduce any man. Together, these two make a formidable team and seem to genuinely spark off each other.

The plot is suitably silly. In some unnamed South American country, Bardot is an Irish (!) terrorist's daughter who has learned all the tricks of the trade before suddenly becoming orphaned. On the run from the authorities, she takes refuge with a motley band of travelling performers whose shows seem to mix circus and music hall. Moreau is a star attraction although she has just lost the partner in her double act. Naturally, the two girls - both named Maria - end up on stage together where problems with the costumes lead to some delightful striptease sequences. The girls are a big hit - no surprise!

The troupe's travels take them to a country in the midst of revolution. Moreau falls for the rebel leader - George Hamilton, of all people, trying hard to look moody and magnificent. When he is killed (sad for Maria, relief for the audience) the two Marias take over leadership of the rebels, inspired by Moreau's zeal and Bardot's technical knowledge of explosives.

The film rattles along at a brisk pace, littered along the way with saucy humour and outrageous sight gags. There is a marvellous supporting cast to jolly things along, chief among them the droll Claudio Brook as the head of the troupe - a crack shot obsessed with developing a gun to shoot around corners. And, as is director Louis Malle's habit, there are also some bitingly funny digs at the Catholic Church. This is not a film to be taken seriously, as its many surreal touches prove. For example, the still standing skeleton of a horse and rider. Or the big black border guards who drink tea and speak English with impeccable Oxbridge accents. It says a lot for the ensemble playing that the film is still fun when Bardot and Moreau are not on screen.

But, of course, it's fantastic when they are - Bardot the playful kitten who enjoys sex and explosives equally, and Moreau the slightly more mature cat: sleek, sensuous and seductive. I hate to tell you about the dreams I had after seeing her love scene with Hamilton - in a prison with him chained helplessly against a wall. Maybe not a great film but certainly superlative entertainment.
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on 25 August 2016
For entertainment I really love this rather flawed film. I saw it first in the late 60's expecting Jeanne Moreau to wipe Bardot off the face of the universe only to find Bardot possibly pipping Moreau? It's a moot point really. As films go this is not one of the best ever made but it is strangely anarchic, blackly humorous and vastly entertaining 'if' you in the mood. It reminds me of Candy slightly - another quite ridiculous highly entertaining bit of visual delight. I won't mention Monenegro Pigs n Pearls. None quite Fellini's 8 1/2 perhaps but Hell's Bells.. all on my playlist for sure. As one other Viva Maria reviewer put it - Nice pair! Moreau not at all bad either.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 10 February 2013
Viva Maria! is really a fantastic film, worthy to stand alongside Malle's finest, or very nearly ... in the end it falls short of his greatest work, perhaps, for not having the depth of meaning of Au Revoir Les Enfants or Le Souffle Au Coeur. We do not learn much about life from this caper, but it has all the value of entertainment of the highest order, and a lot of aesthetic pleasure along the way. Jeanne Moreau and Brigitte Bardot play off each other wonderfully, and Moreau's character reminded me a bit of her incarnation in Jules et Jim, but in colourful dresses and without the serious undercurrents - her ability to tell of her past is used by Malle as Truffaut did, capitalising on her beautiful voice and pointing up a more comic potential. The film reminds me a bit, in tone, of Candide, and it is constantly interesting to see how Malle balances the comic requirements against the waging of a revolution in 1907 with the body count that that suggests. He does it by making the violence very "cops and robbers" in style - we see very little actual blood. Likewise, when the girls are being tortured by the Catholic church in this unnamed South American country, we never really fear for them as the priest tightens the vise around their heads - it subsequently breaks for which the Padre apologises, saying it had been very little used in recent times, or some such absurdity ... you might think it wouldn't work on film as well as in Voltaire's book, but Malle really does pull it off.

There is a loss of meaning in these events, in comparison with Voltaire's philosophical underpinnings, however there are other superb benefits: a whole string of amazing sight-gags in the latter stages of the film, the beauty of the camerawork by Henri Decae, and the fabulous score by Georges Delerue, who also wrote the music for Jules et Jim. And here too Moreau gets to sing a couple of songs with Bardot, and with a terrific charm. In fact I was quite sad that it abandoned the musical genre about halfway through and became a sort of comic spaghetti western with circus elements still thrown in, and a few costumes. The duet where they improvise the first striptease is a classic scene - it really is laugh-out-loud funny, with Moreau being bored by the trite, slightly saucy song that sounds as if it has come straight out of La Ronde, but trying to breathe some life into it for the sake of the audience. Bardot doesn't know the words, or even the tune, so it is a bit of a mess until she rips off a part of her dress by mistake. The idea of ripping clothes is later amusingly taken up when Moreau has a love scene with a prisoner clapped in irons, but this doesn't stop her ripping his shirt off in the heat of passion, or indeed her own (we hear the ripping sound but it's too dark to see exactly what it is that's been ripped). For the acting, the music, the silliness, the scenery, and the original tone, Viva Maria! has to be seen!
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on 15 August 2015
The only tragedy here is that this Blu-ray release hasn't any extra features - and no option for the English dubbed version. So we just have the subtitled version, which isn't all that bad because this film really is more of a visual treat; it's not too deep or hard to follow and the last third is more or less action anyway, so there is little dialogue. But considering the director (Louis Malle) and the stars involved (Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau), it really is sad that there isn't at least a documentary on Malle, or indeed, anything else on the stars. I mean Bardot and Moreau - both undisputed heavyweight legends of the screen - are still with us, at the time I write this! How about an audio commentary? Or an interview at least! Or anything?!...Sadly all we have here is another print on Blu-ray, with nothing new to add.

The film itself is a fun-filled ride though (albeit a mixed bag) with a lot of Jacque Tati style comedy, which still works today. The music scenes are really charming - there should have been more of them. The action and scenery is impressive and there are a plethora of wacky characters along the way to laugh at. So a whimsical piece of fun, which holds up well today and the girls are simply divine! But I cant recommend a purchase here - just stick to the DVD because the Blu-ray is simply nothing more than another print of this film, at an expensive price.

Give the fans something to look forward to next time, rather than trying to make a fast-buck on another standard Blu-ray release!
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Along with The Thief of Paris, Viva Maria! was a career-stalling flop for Louis Malle, here given his largest budget and two of France's biggest female exports, Jeanne Moreau and Brigitte Bardot. It's not entirely hard to see why the film flopped, his tale of two singers/strippers who get caught up in a Mexican revolution playing like a cross between Heller in Pink Tights and a sendup of a spaghetti Western. Certainly you'll probably spend the first half hour wondering what the plot will be when they get round to it, as Bardot's daughter of an eternal revolutionary - any revolution, it seems, will do as long as he gets to blow things or people up - finds herself suddenly orphaned and just as suddenly the replacement for Moreau's partner in her double-act after the lovesick girl kills herself. A lousy performer and a terrible singer, they compensate by accidentally inventing striptease, to the delight of their South of the Border clientele, only to get briefly involved with George Hamilton's revolution against evil landlord and local dictator José Ángel Espinoza.

Although there are some neat sight gags along the way - the skeleton of a horse and rider by the side of a desert road perhaps the best - Malle and co-writer Jean-Claude Carrière save most of their ammunition for the last half hour, which plays like a live action Looney Toons cartoon with a constant stream of neat and increasingly surreal sight gags targeting religion and capital. The determinedly but ineptly misogynist Inquisition's instruments of torture falling to pieces because it's been so long since they were last used and the Father Superior losing his head but not his disdain for perfidious women could almost have come out of a Bunuel film, and there's a striking moment of magic realism when a magician brings a dove back to life after a raucous customer shoots it, but generally Malle's opting for something much more unashamedly populist and spectacular here even while gleefully undermining it. (Malle was bemused by Rainer Werner Fassbinder's belief that the two heroines represented two different approaches to revolution - direct action against the system by any means necessary versus change from within through legal means: Malle thought of it as a simple light-comic adventure film in the mould of L'Homme du Rio with no intellectual pretensions beyond being a reaction against the `monumental bore' the New Wave had become in French cinema).

So, a film that's best enjoyed at face value, then. Aside from the perversity of seeing far right-winger Bardot as a Marxist revolutionary, there's a beautiful Georges Delerue score and some gorgeous Scope cinematography from Henri Decae that ensures that the film always looks and sounds good even if it doesn't really know how to end. Curiously, while the TV prints generally seem to be the dubbed English version that entirely drops the wistful opening song, Generique - both Delerue's haunting music and Malle and Carrière's rueful lyrics - the PAL DVD version only offer the superior French language version with no extras in a good 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, as does Kino Lorber's Region A-locked Blu-ray release.
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I immediately grabbed a copy when this came out on DVD remembering it fondly from having seen the movie a number of times at cinema clubs in late 1960s and early 1970s before it disappeared from sight.

The film provides a very unique take on the standard story of oppressed people's revolutions South American style combined with a very Gallic comedy approach especially on sexual aspects with Bardot and Moreau playing it very tongue in cheek against their better known '60s personas. The use of a travelling show of French actors hiding the revolutionary Bardot as they traverse South America becoming the fuse after encountering the local revolutionary leader provides in turn a slightly cynical nod to the more emotional pulling Hollywood approach to such movies. I still think the movie has no comparable from all I have seen. Louis Malle clearly no stranger to mature comedy (per his earlier French "Zazie in the metro" film) delivers a much more international comedy movie. Bardot in particular comes across as having a ball and much more interesting an actress than her usual fare and the scene of the two lady leads accidentally inventing the striptease being a classic.

What has amazed me most is that my family who are all much younger and clearly never knew the original movie play this DVD continually proving yet again that good comedy clearly has no time limit!
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on 17 October 2010
I'm no expert but in my eyes this film with Brigitte Bardot, Jeanne Moreau and George Hamilton is not bad at all and even slightly naive. The two Marias are both beautiful in their youth and the film turns on that,and their naivete. I first saw the film ages ago, and it was the songs that stuck in my head all these years, until I finally had to see it again. Now, that I have seen it, I'm not disappointed, and quite happy to have this film "at my beck and call". It's a harmonious mixture of adventure, romance and even suspense\thriller, with an almost happy end. Quite worthwhile, to my thinking.
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on 1 December 2010
A fun film, with nasty old south American rulers out to make life miserable for every one, foiled by a travelling show that happens to get in the way. I think of this as BBs best film
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on 6 October 2014
This is what Carry On films would have been like had the French invented them. Bardot and Moreau both look gorgeous as they fight injustice, overthrow an evil dictatorship, and invent striptease - never has ooh la la been more appropriate!
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on 30 December 2009
Old fashioned but wonderfully simple good entertaining fun. Despite last having watched at the pictures in the 1960s it remained firmly in the memory so the opportunity to buy it on DVD and see it again was marvellous. And of course it has Brigitte Bardot and Jean Moreau to enjoy!
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