Top positive review
8 people found this helpful
Viva Bardot! Viva Moreau!
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.