Barbarella comes from the 41st century so theoretically she knows a thing or to. Perhaps she can tell me from the future how to choose a best shot from her infamous movie? Though I’d seen at least some of Barbarella before – I’ve never forgotten the hilarious space-burlesque title sequence -- now I've seen all of Barbarella. In both senses.
There's certainly a lot to look at but I’ve rarely been more stumped with this series... more
How to claim Best Shot for anything therein? Roger Vadim’s sci-fi softcore fantasy is so committed to its bad taste scifi chintz that I was tempted to judge it entirely based on its production design. I had forgotten all about shag carpeting -- a sense memory from a barefoot 70s childhood -- but Barbarella has preserved it for all time and not just on floors where it once reigned. I also loved every glimpse of the Mathmos, the angry lava lamp that is this insane movie's idea of a Big Bad. But never do the Mathmos and the Shag share the frame so I had to forfeit that angle.
Often I make my Best Shot visual choice around something that informs the theme or tells the story all by itself. But plot and meaning are not among Barbarella’s selling points unless you're quite high. (If you were hallucinating even before the movie's trip, please tell me what you saw on yours once the movie started).
In the end though, I think Barbarella is most successful when viewed through the prism of Roger Vadim bragging about the extraordinary beauty and sexuality of his then wife Jane Fonda circa 1968 (not that her beauty hasn't been well-preserved in the 45 years since. Well done, Jane) so the shot has to be about that.
The Boyfriend remarked as we were watching that "Jane Fonda was the Nicole Kidman of her day!" and he said that even before her psychic cardiogram sex scene that might bring The Paperboy to mind and he had a point. Aside from the startling visual similarities, Fonda was, as Kidman is now, a reckless auteurist who was willing to give her all to anyone with a vision no matter how outre and no matter what she'd have to get up to in the movie to fulfill it. And she was just as versatile. I love that you can draw a line between the closeups of her face in ecstacy as she orgasms in both Barbarella (1968) and Coming Home (1978). The movies and scenes and characters are hugely different but she's perfect for both of them.
Oh my poor spaceship!"
-one of the many funny beats in Fonda's performance
Almost all of the best moments in the movie spin on Fonda's lusty beauty which is, nevertheless, made entirely accessible by her comic gift. My favorite scene in Barbarella -- and I could write a 1000 words about this scene alone but I'd better not -- is the "old fashioned" sex scene near the beginning. Fonda's delivery of absurd futuristic jargon and her character's never-questioned regurgitation of her world's sexual mores is A+ comedy and it's beautifully paired with the exaggerated changing language of her body pre and post coital.
In scenes like that one Barbarella feels both innocent and kinky at once so I needed the image that best expressed this duality, something both angelic and dirty. When Pygar the angel meets Barbarella, who will share his nest and restore his will to fly, he is caught off guard. "I was told earthlings were cold." He was told wrong. This particularly earthling is unmistakably hot.
11 more earthlings & angels
You can see a link roundup of the selected best shots in visual narrative order here, or click over to these fine articles for more...
Cinema Enthusiast goes to the birds • Serious Film sees Jane Fonda's IQ vibes • Encore Entertainment finds Barbara theoretically impossible • Antagony & the Excessive Machine • Allison Tooey the movie in a nutshell • Stranger Than Most Barbarella... On Ice • We Recycle Movies outlandish, kinky, silly and sadistic • Film Actually Barbarella and the Old Fashioned Ways • Amiresque an Opaque Bombshell • The Film's The Thing 'what kind of girl is she?' • Film Geek marvels at strong women