Naughty Girl (Cette sacreé gamine) [DVD]
Screenplay : Roger Vadim and Michel Boisrond (story by Jean Périne)
MPAA Rating : NR
Year of Release : 1955
Stars : Brigitte Bardot (Brigitte Latour), Jean Bretonnière (Jean Clery), Françoise Fabian (Lili Rocher-Villedieu), Mischa Auer (Igor), Raymond Bussières (Jerome), Bernard Lancret (Paul Latour), Jean Poiret (First Inspector), Lucien Raimbourg (Older inspector), Michel Serrault (Second Inspector)
No one will ever accuse Brigitte Bardot of being a particularly great actress, but she had the rare kind of screen presence that lifted even the slightest movie to heights it otherwise would never reach.
Take "Naughty Girl" ("Cette sacreé gamine") for example. Made in 1955, the year before Bardot would reach world-wide fame with "... And God Created Woman," it is a slight, mediocre Technicolor French riff on screwball comedies (most notably, Howard Hawks' "Bringing Up Baby") padded out with fantasy dance sequences and a lot of scantily clad young women. Yet, Bardot's presence on screen takes everything up a notch.
At the time the film was made, Bardot was only 22, yet she had already starred in 14 films, mostly comedies in which she was more of an object than a character. Much the same is true in "Naughty Girl," in which she plays a spoiled-but-likable college schoolgirl named (what else?) Brigitte. Throughout the film, Brigitte is referred to by various older, male characters as "a big baby" ("le grand bebe"). When her father calls her that to a gardener who has been leering at Brigitte while she swims, the gardener sums up the majority male response to Bardot when he pines, "A baby like that S Brigitte's wealthy father, Paul (Bernard Lancret), is the owner of a Parisian nightclub called the Mississippi. Perhaps sensing his daughter's sensuality and lack of restraint (she cusses like sailor), Paul doesn't want Brigitte mixing and mingling with the nightclub set, so he tells her that he is a shipbuilder. Unfortunately, Paul comes under suspicion for forgery when counterfeit American money shows up at the Mississippi, so he escapes to Switzerland to avoid the scandal. However, he knows the investigators will come after his daughter, so he asks his star lounge singer, the recently engaged Jean (Jean Clery), to steal Brigitte out of college and hide her in his apartment for a few days. Essentially, Brigitte ends up turning Jean's once orderly life upside down. Jean also finds himself digging for answers to explain Brigitte's presence in his apartment: He tells his snooty butler, Jerome (Raymond Bussières), that she is an amnesiac orphan he found on the street, and he tells his stuffy, psychiatrist fiancee, Lili (Françoise Fabian), that she is his little sister. In the meantime, Brigitte manages to almost burn down his apartment while ironing, and she also gets arrested for calling police officers four-letter names. Will Jerome eventually fall in love with Brigitte? Will the bumbling police investigators stop talking about fancy French restaurants long enough to figure out who the real forgery crooks are? Will the film climax in a ridiculously overlong brawl at the Mississippi involving just about every major character smashing chairs over each other's heads? If you've ever seen a screwball comedy, you probably already know all the answers to these questions. Despite its basically bland setup, "Naughty Girl" does have a few moments of genuine inspiration (it was co-written by Bardot's husband, Roger Vadim, who would direct her to stardom the next year in "... And God Created Woman"). The best sequence is an extended dream-fantasy in which Jean sits through one Lili's dull lectures on psychoanalysis, and each of his dreams (all of which involve Brigitte dancing) are extensions of Lili's lecture about how "dreams are the subconscious' desire to express itself" and the power of "the nocturnal suppression of self-inhibition." It's a coy, creative excuse to put Bardot in various skimpy outfits and watch her dance through elaborate sets (she is, in fact, an accomplished dancer, having attended the prestigious Conservatoire Nationale de Dance) while also illuminating a character's secret desires. "Naughty Girl" is certainly not one of Bardot's best films, but it does put her Lolita-ish charms to great effect. It is little wonder that Bardot, at least in her early films, was always described as a "sex kitten." With her girlish face, bright inquisitive eyes, and constant look of innocent astonishment that contrast with her curvaceous body and fluid movements, she was a sexual paradox in action. The immense appeal of Bardot and other Lolita figures in roles like this is precisely the illusion that they are unaware of their own hyper-sexuality. Thus, silly pratfalls and slapstick takes on an erotic edge. Bardot's later work with directors such as Jean-Luc Godard (she had the lead in his 1963 film "Contempt") shows that she had range and was willing to exploit her appeal for purposes beyond sexual enticement. For simple movies like "Naughty Girl," however, her appeal will always be at its most primal basic: as pure eye candy. THE DISC "Naughty Girl" is available as an individual DVD, or as part of Anchor Bay's four-disc "Brigitte Bardot Collection," which also includes "Les Femmes" (1969), "Come Dance With Me" (1967), and "Please Not Now" (1961), as well as a documentary, "Brigitte Bardot ... Take One," narrated by Julie Delphy. Widescreen: 2.35:1 Video: Restored from the original negatives, "Naughty Girl" is presented in all its excessive, Technicolor glory. Shot in CinemaScope, this DVD presents the film in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, a must because of the manner in which director Michel Boisrond makes full use of the entire frame (there is one particularly creative sequence depicting six people talking on the phone, and rather than using optical split-screen effects, the actors are apparently in an elaborate, multi-level set that gives the illusion of their being in split-screen). The image appears to be mostly clean of any damage, although there are recurring vertical lines present, especially during the opening credits sequence on the left side of the screen and some of the composition is a bit grainy. Because the film was shot in Technicolor, some of the color can be a bit garish, although it is not nearly as bright and saturated as you might expect. Audio: The disc thankfully presents the film with its original French soundtrack (if you've ever suffered through a dubbed Bardot film, you know what a miserable experience it can be). For a mono soundtrack, the sound isn't too bad; perhaps it is a bit tinny in some of the higher ranges, but overall it is quite good. Extras: The disc comes with a brief-but-informative biography of Bardot and the American theatrical trailer, a truly awful piece of work that invites you to have "the Frenchiest time of your life." ©2000 James Kendrick
16x9 Enhanced: Yes
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Extras: Theatrical Trailer; Biography of Brigitte Bardot
Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment
©2000 James Kendrick