Sex Kitten

As Edgar Morin has remarked, the young Bardot (already famous at Cannes before she had starred in any well-known films) combined extreme innocence with extreme eroticism, and was thus 'la plus sexy des vedettes bébé, le plus bébé des vedettes sexy'.16 Morin locates this mixture of the innocent child and the sexual animal in Bardot's appearance, especially her face:

10s 'Perhaps because of a tradition taken from the theatre, actresses in French cinema have always played certain types: the ingénue, the tart, the femme fatale, the grand lady' - M. Ciment and Y. Tobin, 'Actrices françaises', Positif, 495, (May 2002), p.5.

11* See Chapter 1. For a discussion of what these opposites are in Bardot's case, see below.

12* R. Dyer, Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society, London, BFI/Macmillan, 1986, pp.31 and 32.

13* Bardot's breakthrough was in 1956 with Et Dieu ... créa la femme. In 1953 Monroe had her first three starring roles and was voted top female box office star by American film distributors. See ibid., p.27.

15* 'the sea, the sun, the sand, and music' - Juliette to Carradine (Curt Jurgens) in the film.

16* 'the most sexy of the baby stars, and the most babyish of the sexy stars' - E. Morin, Les Stars, 3rd edition, Paris, Editions du Seuil, 1972, p.31.

En effet son visage de petite chatte est ouvert à la fois sur l'enfance et sur la félinité: sa chevelure longue et tombante par derrière est le symbole même du déshabillé lascif, de la nudité offerte, mais une frange faussement désordonnée sur le front nous ramène à la petite collégienne. [...] la lèvre irférieure tris charniK fait tme moue de bébé mais aussi tme invitation au baiser}1

Youthful innocence and animal sexuality combine in the image of the sex kitten. Morin's opening phrase above recalls Michel's description of Juliette in Et Dieu ... créa lafemme as 'un petit chat', or the priest calling her 'un jeune animal}* Throughout the film, Bardot is identified alternately with animals and with childhood. At times the two tropes coexist, as in the scenes showing Juliette tending to her pets, and later letting them go (a symbol of lost innocence when she realises the depth of her desire for Antoine). More often there is a contrast between the child and the sexual animal. Several times Antoine dismisses Juliette as 'une gosse', although he also admits that 'C'est une vraie femme maintenant'}9 The sexually charged confrontation between Juliette and Antoine on the beach, one of the climaxes of the film, is sandwiched between scenes infantilising Juliette. In the first, she struggles weakly in the sea after her boat catches fire, and begs Antoine 'Me me laisse pas'.20 Yet once he has helped her ashore, she stands over him in a magnificent display of sexual power, grinding his head into the sand with her bare feet. She proceeds to stretch out languorously on the sand to show him her body, barely contained by her dripping wet dress. But the sexual prédation apparent here is disavowed in the scene that follows, with Juliette cast as a little girl again, in bed with a fever and talking about her fears in a childish voice to Antoine's little brother. Like these sequences, Bardot's star image itself oscillates between infantile helplessness (BB as baby) and sexual dominance (BB as sex bomb).

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