Wednesday, May 6, 2015

LIZ SMITH: Bardot ... Bette ... Madonna

BB — And God Created Woman. Thank you, God!
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
by Liz Smith

Wednesday's Delicious Wrap — Bardot ... Bette ... Madonna. 

“THEY MAY call me a sinner, but I am at peace with myself,” said Brigitte Bardot at the height of her spectacular fame as France’s most erotic movie star.
I LOOKED at the cover of Harper’s Bazaar for May and was pleased to see a photo of Brigitte Bardot. A great beauty, I always thought, and a smart cookie — she stayed away from Hollywood. Sensitive and occasionally unstable as a young woman, she was content being the icon of France. (And wise enough to allow her only son to be raised by his father. “I needed a parent, I couldn’t be a parent!”)

How nice, I thought, that Bazaar was paying her tribute.

Uhhh ... but then I opened to the article and found that the blonde pouty beauty was not Bardot. Rather it was model Anna Ewers, clearly emulating BB. (Bebe as she was known affectionately in France.) Anna is 22, German, wants to avoid social media. She’d prefer to remain “mysterious.”

Good luck with that, with that face, honey!
P.S. on Bardot. She is now a long way from the rapturously free teen-age spirit discovered by Roger Vadim. She has championed animal rights, become more conservative (“Only idiots refuse to change their minds,” she has said, adding: “I am greatly misunderstood by politically correct idiots!”)
Bardot hides her secrets — in her hair!
But to the public, the most startling Bardot transformation has been physical. She retired from films at the age of 40, declaring she did not wish to watch herself grow old on-screen. But she grew old off-screen, in typical European fashion. No lifts, no fillers. Years of sun-worshipping finally took their toll; she dismissed dermatological rescue. The exquisite body thickened. She did not diet excessively. She is now 80 years old, and looks not a second younger. Her husband of the last 25 years doesn’t seem to mind.
Keep the hat on, darling — the sun is not your friend.
I say vive la Bardot! Aging “gracefully” isn’t for everyone, especially in America. But it’s not so bad. If one of the world’s most ravishing creatures, the epitome of juicy, luscious youth and sexuality can do it, so can you.
I PRAISE Madonna a lot. I know that annoys some of you. Sorry! But I’ve also laced that praise with criticism, or at least my idea of what she might do, or say (or not say) or wear. I admire the fact that she has never taken my advice. Or anyone’s. She has traveled to the beat of her own techno-music.

But sometimes she’s perfect. I do mean her appearance at the massive Met Fashion Gala the other night in NYC. There she was, with long straight hair (gone are the overworked waves), beautiful makeup, and a stylish, whimsical, subtly sexy black gown by the designer Moschino. (Well, it was more subtle than a lot of what The Big M wears. It was certainly more subtle than Beyonce's get-up.) Totally appropriate for the pop goddess she is, and always will be. (Haters, listen up — even if she never has another No. 1 hit, she’ll always be the Queen. Accept that.)

When I saw the photos I wanted to reach in, hand her a microphone and say, “Sing out, Madonna Louise Ciccone — croon those ballads. Do your Dietrich!” Well, that’s my fantasy and problem. It will never be Madonna’s reality. But I am satisfied she looked like this for the Met event. She also looked like she was having fun. (Still rare for this workaholic.)

People — even so-called “fans” — often say she’s desperate to stay in touch with the youth culture. I think she simply enjoys composing and performing edgy material. She likes collaborating with young people. I believe she enjoys the music she makes. If she was “desperate” for a certain kind of approbation, she’d work on an album of standards. Or a “Duets” disc. Not. Going. To. Happen.

Privately, as a woman, she has changed. As an artist? Same as 1983. And if you can’t see it, you don’t know your Madonna.
SPEAKING OF fashion, the hotly anticipated “Saint Laurent” from Sony Pictures Classics, opens on May 8th. Directed by Bertrand Bonello, it stars Gaspard Ulliel as the groundbreaking designer Yves St. Laurent. The film covers the peak of his career from 1967-1976. It is, apparently, half-fiction, half truth, all quite delicious and decadent and full of artistic triumph and personal suffering. Just the way we love our celebrity tell-alls to tell us all. Why should the Beautiful People be happy? I’m dying to see this.
“WHERE’S EVERYBODY going?!!!” Bette Midler screams this out toward the end of her 1979 film, “The Rose.” Left alone again by yet another person who just can’t take it, she still can’t understand why?

For all of Bette Midler’s magnificent accomplishments since “The Rose” I have always considered her performance there to be the most moving, natural, down-to-the-bone of her entire career. Maybe because it was her first film (she was already a star of cabarets, records and TV specials.)
Maybe she never quite connected with another character as she did with this tormented Janis Joplin-esque singer. (A character quite unlike the disciplined Bette.) All I know is — forgive me dear, very talented Sally Field — Bette wuz robbed of an Oscar that year.

Click to order "The Rose."
Now my friends at The Criterion Collection have just released a digital restoration of Mark Rydell’s film. (On the cover it says, “Director Approved Edition.”) Unlike other restorations, I don’t expect this one to be distractingly over-sharp. At least I hope not.

The grainy cinematography was one of the most potent aspects of the film — so many '70s movies had this look. Also included are archival and new interviews with Midler and Rydell.

But, interviews and restorations aside, nothing can alter the power of Bette Midler in “The Rose.” Onstage, belting out “Stay With Me” ... the heartbreaking phone booth scene ... the raucous bar rendition of “Love Me With a Feeling” — there isn’t one emotion Midler does not approach and conquer in this film.

I am so glad this movie is out under the aegis of Criterion. They know how to treat classic cinema.

P.S. If asked, I'd venture that Bette would cite "For The Boys" as the role with which she most identified. Certainly, that film was a true labor of love for her.

Contact Liz Smith here.