Love on a Pillow (1962)
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Although there is indeed a plot (a rather interesting one, if you ask me), the power of this film lies not in the story but in the script and in the subtle, almost indecipherable fragments of philosophy we experience through these two highly complex characters.
Geneviève (Bardot) is the the romantic. Her counterpart Renaud (Hossein) is the cynic. The collision of their worlds causes a catastrophic upheaval in both of their lives. But it is undeniable that they need each other, just as the two opposing philosophies rely on each other. Sort of a yin-yang thing. At times they are at war with each other; at times they cling to each other for life; at times they threaten to annihilate the other absolutely. This is some really heavy stuff that cannot possibly be summarized in a few paragraphs, so I won't even try.
There are several monologues which are so stirring I want to learn them by heart. Particularly the last two speeches in the final 10 mins of the film. Pay close attention to those words, because they sum up the entire theme of the film. Powerful. Powerful.
In the USA Easy Rider was one of the first films where people smoked pot ("without raping a nurse" as Dennis Hopper stated), Vadim showed it almost 6 years earlier! He was quite hip and brave to make the film, dealing with a mental disease which is still under the carpet 50+ years later, in the first place. Not many people care for depressive persons. His ex-wife BB had some understanding as well of course, she tried to kill herself a year before the film was made.
All this, however, serves to make him even more miserable, in the best masochistic tradition, as he falls even more deeply into his alcoholic albatross, rather than face real life responsibility as a sober, productive man with a good woman by his side.
Bardot exudes the utmost maturity and restraint in taking the best cheap shots this ungrateful con-artist, female user, and abusive man (Robert Hossein, in an outstanding interpretation of a difficult role) can dump on her. The problem here is universal in scope in that it portrays two people who are physically attracted to each other, to the point of addiction, while at the same time a classic mis-match from a values and a psychological perspective. "You always hurt the one you love," was never more in evidence than for the 102 emotion-draining minutes of this film. Clearly a Vadim masterpiece, and a triumphant collaboration with Bardot, long after their real-life divorce and her remarriage. This represents "professionalism" to the highest degree.
Today, seeing the film again, I found it almost stupid. I explain.
1. The revolt of Renaud is not explained in a context, so we don't know exactly why he is bitter, cynic, self destructive and iconoclast.
2. The author of the story tries to glamorize Renaud revolt, but, what I see can't be glamorized. For instance, Renaud wears the same unwashed clothes during several weeks (which seems to be the time the story lasts) doesn't take a bath and doens't shave his beard. He smokes all the time and drinks heavily since the time he wakes up. So, his clothes and his breath certainly stink disgustingly. He messes seriously Geneviève's apartment spreading all around dirty dishes and ash trays stuffed with smoked cigarettes. All this mess and dirtiness for nothing... or to punish unjustly Geneviève?
3. Geneviève looks rather as stupid blonde female because she falls in love with a stinking revolted pseudo-existentialist who does't do anything useful to anyone and criticize hardly the middle class life style, middle class of which he is actually a parasite.
The film deserves to be seen because of the presence of BB. She was marvelous by that time and a real icon of a generation. A queen of many dreamers as me.
One would think he would be grateful and perhaps fall in love with his beautiful benefactress. What happens is just the opposite. She falls into a kind of obsessive, almost masochistic, love with him, but all he feels for her is indifference. He spends her money, drinks to excess, abuses her verbally and emotionally. But she can't let him go regardless of what he does. Yes, this is a familiar premise, and frankly I would not have stuck around long enough to see how it plays out except for Brigitte Bardot.
If you haven't seen her, you might want to watch this just to take a look at her. She is strikingly beautiful and amazingly sexy. She has pretty, almost perfect features and a soft and sweet way about her; but perhaps the most arresting thing about her is her figure. It is absolutely exquisite. She was a sensation in the fifties not only in France but in the US as the quintessence of the "sex kitten," in some ways even more so than, say, Marilyn Monroe or Tuesday Weld.
Roger Vadim, who would later direct Jane Fonda in Barbarella (1968) was married to Bardot at the time this movie was made. (He would later marry Jane Fonda.) Like some other French directors, Vadim liked to make movies which amounted to adorations of the beautiful young star. See Roman Polanski with, e.g., Nastassja Kinski in Tess (1979); Krzysztof Kieslowski with Irene Jacob in La Double vie de Véronique (1991) and Trois couleurs: Rouge (1994); and Andre Techine, with Juliette Binoche in Rendez-vous (1985) for some comparisons. Naturally if you make movies in which the camera adores the young actress and shows her in her best light, you are going to attract young actresses! Here Vadim directs in a studied manner designed to not only show off Bardot's exquisite beauty but to highlight her ability as an actress. Although not among the first rank as actresses go, Bardot performs well here. Perhaps this is her best film. She is elegantly dressed and coiffured, and Vadim treats us to many close ups of her lovely face. (If there is a more beautiful woman in filmdom, I haven't seen her.) But don't expect to see much of her equally lovely body or any kinky sex. This film could easily pass for PG-13.
Vadim creates an early sixties French atmosphere as he recalls the jazz/beat scene from that era, but he does so in a superficial, almost euphemistic way. In the elaborate scenes at Katov's apartment and then at his estate, we are given a hint of the decadent indulgence of a certain class of French society in which privilege, jazz, heroin, pot and easy sex are the rule, but Vadim keeps it all off camera except for one scene in which a joint is passed around.
Vadim's most famous film starring Brigitte Bardot is Et Dieu... créa la femme (And God Created Woman) (1956). This is not to be confused with Vadim's American version of the film from 1988 starring Rebecca De Mornay, which was not very good.
Bardot retired fairly young and devoted her life to helping animals.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
For what it's worth, it tells of a bourgeois girl (Bardot) shortly to be married to an unassuming young man travelling from Paris to Dijon to hear the will of her late aunt, who accidentally stumbles on the suicide attempt of a bohemian, pulp-thriller-loving misanthrope (Robert Hossein) who, upon recovering, literally turns her life upside down. The cast is completed by James Robertson Justice (as Hossein's sculptor friend), Macha Meril (as Robertson's tramp companion) and, in one sequence, Michel Serrault as a notary.
In the end, the original title of THE WARRIOR'S REST sounds far more interesting that what's on offer here and the fact that I was misinformed about the film's running time I thought it was a good 22 minutes shorter! did not help to earn it much affection from my end. But, then, the sight of Bardot in her prime (and, Vadim being Vadim, in various stages of undress as well) is always welcome...
"Le Repôs du Guerrier" has a great premise a conservative woman falling in love for a destructive man that corrupts her in a masochist relationship. The story is long, disclosing many abusive and humiliating situations that Geneviève is exposed in an erotic way, considering that this is a movie of 1962. For example, the orgy in Katov's apartment is not explicit but it is very clear that the participants are having sex, using drugs and drinking booze. However, Roger Vadim's option for a corny conclusion gives the sensation of a melodramatic soap-opera and spoils the dramatic and crude romance. My vote is four.
Title (Brazil): "O Repouso do Guerreiro" ("The Warrior's Rest")
However, I detected one scene that may unite appreciators and non-appreciators. Its jazz-tune, somewhere halfway this movie, really is very good.
All in all a movie with an unususal thin story, even for Bardot-standards. That may be inspired by the Italian Fellini/Antonioni-movies, whcih were very fashionable in 1962. If 'repos' provides us with any theme, it's about the battle of the sexes. Brigitte comes out victorious: a foregone conclusion, given the nitwit-character of her male counterpart.
Pedantic middle-class Parisian Genevieve Le Theil (Bardot) lives in her late father's elegant apartment, leading a comfortable but empty existence. Her mother (Jacqueline Porel) still grumbles bitterly about her deceased husband's infidelity, but Genevieve seems to care little about her father's reputation as an adulterer. In fact, she seems underwhelmed by just about every aspect of her life, including her relationship with well-to-do businessman Pierre (Jean Marc Bory). Genevieve is summoned to the provincial town of Dijon to receive a sizable inheritance. She says she will use the money to "open up a business keep me busy, doing something I enjoy". However, during her stay in Dijon she inadvertently comes across a comatose man who has recently attempted to commit suicide. She manages to get help in time to save his life. Soon, Genevieve can't stop thinking about the coincidental chain of events that led her to discover the man before it was too late. She becomes obsessed with the notion that fate united them for a purpose, and decides to visit him in hospital. His name is Renaud Sarti (Robert Hossein), and it isn't long before he works his way into Genevieve's mind with his forthright charm and confident swagger. Before she knows it, she is involved in a whirlwind romance with Renaud, leaving behind her previously well-organised lifestyle in favour of the bohemian hedonism to which he has introduced her. Her mother is appalled, Pierre is heartbroken, and even Renaud's fatherly friend Katov (James Robertson Justice) warns that the relationship is likely to self-destruct. Renaud's extraordinary appetite for indulgence of every kind (drinking, smoking, pulp fiction, jazz, whores) threatens to engulf him and Genevieve with him.
The film is beautifully shot and blessed with engaging performances. Bardot is allowed the rare opportunity here to act rather than being just a pouty European sex symbol this is a real role, nuanced and challenging, and she proves she has some talent with a performance that is both deep and believable. Hossein is terrific as the self-indulgent Renaud, managing the difficult trick of being alluring and abhorrent at the same time. Where Le Repos Du Guerrier comes undone somewhat is in the writing. It's hard to like any of the main characters to spend 98 minutes in the company of someone as arrogant, indulgent and nihilistic as Renaud, or as excessively analytical and fanciful as Genevieve, ends up being a rather exasperating experience. Yes, their performances are first-rate, but the characters they play often cry out for a good slap across the face. Le Repos Du Guerrier is a good film but not one that many viewers will want to watch again. It is worth seeing for its striking photography and excellent performances, but the film's conclusion - that ending up in a destructive romance is better than no romance at all - is ultimately rather depressing.
The film begins with Bardot having a very, very controlled and predictable life. She has a fiancé but there isn't a lot of passion between them. She is content with her lot...but not all that happy.
When she travels to meet with lawyers concerning an inheritance that will make her quite rich, she stumbles accidentally into the life of a man who tried to kill himself with sleeping pills. How they met and how the hospital just gave him to her is all very, very difficult to believe--so you'd best suspend belief if you are to continue watching.
Once the man is released from the hospital, he follows Bardot--almost like a stalker. But, oddly, instead of running away or telling him to get lost, she falls for this odd and completely amoral and self-absorbed man. Other than the attraction of having some unpredictability and passion in her hum-drum life, it's very, very hard to see why she becomes infatuated with her--especially when he runs hot and cold with her. Many times he does horrible things to try to drive her away...and yet, by the end of the film, you are expected to believe they'll somehow live happily ever after....which is about as likely as politicians balancing a budget!
The plot has a lot of problems as you can see above, yet the film still manages to be interesting and quite sexy (despite not really showing anything). As usual, Bardot's character finds 1001 situations where she gets naked (but you see nothing, really) and the acting is good. It's just that the whole thing seems contrived and it's hard to actually like either character. An odd little time-passer.
By the way, although Ms. Bardot has a famous reputation as an animal rights advocate, I did enjoy seeing her eating a big hunk of meat (this is not a reference to her male co-star but a real piece of cooked flesh) meat and being rather nasty to her pet goldfish.