THE NOVICES (Guy Casaril and, uncredited, Claude Chabrol, 1970) **
To begin with, I managed to obtain a number of Brigitte Bardot's star vehicles (even if they have largely proved bland affairs!) in the last few years. Apparently, the two leads of this one (the other being Annie Girardot) were so dissatisfied with original director/co-writer Casaril's handling that they pushed to have him fired and replaced with Claude Chabrol (who had often worked in conjunction with producer Andre' Genoves and screenwriter Paul Gegauff, though never with them). Interestingly, this was one of three films in which Bardot was flanked by a female star almost as big as herself: she had previously appeared alongside Jeanne Moreau in Louis Malle's delightful VIVA MARIA! (1965) and, later on, would co-star with Claudia Cardinale in Christian-Jaque's THE LEGEND OF FRENCHIE KING (1971; in which, ironically, Guy Casaril was also involved in an uncredited capacity).
Though ostensibly naughty, with Bardot a reluctant nun(!) and Girardot a hooker (decked-out in the customarily tacky fashions of the era), the film under review maintains a light tone throughout; mildly enjoyable but thoroughly forgettable, the main assets here are the splendid Parisian locations and a pleasant score by the late Francois de Roubaix. Meeting in a police station, the two women begin by setting up house together: however, Bardot's constant interruption of Giradot's intimate 'work' (especially after taking in a mangy stray dog!), almost causes her to be thrown out. Eventually, she is trained in the art of seduction by her companion but, after failing in this as well(!), Bardot connives her way - thanks to Girardot's connections - into an ambulance-driving position at the local hospital!
This gives Girardot the idea of converting the vehicle into a traveling brothel after office hours a good 13 years prior to Ron Howard's NIGHT SHIFT!; among their clients are Jess Hahn (as an American expatriate prone to reciting poetry), Jean Carmet (later the ill-fated father of the protagonist in Chabrol's own VIOLETTE NOZIERE ), Noel Roquevert (the villain at the center of Henri-Georges Clouzot's LE CORBEAU ) and Jacques Jouanneau (who had been the amiable private eye in Georges Franju's JUDEX ). The ruse goes very well at first, leaving the couple wealthy if understandably exhausted...until Girardot inadvertently picks up Bardot's superior at work for a 'quick one'! The direct result of this is that our heroines first dispose of the ambulance and then re-join the nunnery from which Bardot had fled to begin with!; they still fail to keep the pace with the other novices and make eyes at the young priest celebrating mass at their remote convent!
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