Wednesday, May 4, 2016

LIZ SMITH: And God Created Bardot

by Liz Smith

And God Created Bardot — Q Magazine Celebrates BB.  Also — The New (More Discreet) Playboy ... and "Penny Dreadful" Returns, with Patti LuPone back in the Monster Mash.

"WAS SHE an actress, or simply a ravishing creature with long, wild blonde hair, impossibly full lips and a backside that could topple every world religion? It didn't matter. Within weeks of the release of 'And God Created Woman' she was 'BB.' In the movie she is a confused young woman, more or less a prisoner of her emotions, most of which involve sex ... the uninhibited free spirit that was Bardot wiped away tiresome critiques of the movie or her character ... she seemed to both resent and relish her beauty and its power over men. She had what men wanted, but what did she want — did her men, did any man, really care?"

That's from the Q magazine cover story on "Living Legend," Brigitte Bardot, written by a lady known as Liz Smith.
Bardot has always fascinated me. She refused American stardom and the lure of Hollywood ... she realized her own shortcomings as an adult, and assigned the care of her only child to his father ... she was a better actress than she was usually credited ... she retired at the age of 39, announcing that the world would never see an "old" BB onscreen. Bardot kept her word, too, although unlike Marlene Dietrich, she did not shun the candid camera or public life (a life Bardot devoted to animal causes) and aged in classic European fashion — naturally, untouched by "procedures."

The wonderful photo editors at Q have, as usual, enhanced the article with a dazzling display of Bardot in her infinite variety.
Director Roger Vadim, BB's first husband/mentor/creator, attempted — after they divorced — to mold others as he had Brigitte, most notably and aggressively, Jane Fonda. But a mane of hair, a pout and a lot of black eyeliner were simply the superficial decorations of BB's image. (Jane herself was far too down-to-earth and forward-thinking to allow this to go on for more than a few years. Luckily, she stuck around Vadim long enough to give us "Barbarella.")

It is likely that had Bardot never met Vadim, she would have made something else happen to become a star. He simply spotted her first. What BB had couldn't be hidden under a bushel; it could barely be contained in a bikini.
WOW — the new "new" issue of Playboy just arrived and although I have not yet had a chance to really read it, the magazine looks and feels totally different.

And when I say "feel," I mean that in the literal, tactile sense. The paper itself has an unusual silky sheen and texture, quite unlike the Playboy of old. Very classy. The cover girl is Keilani Asmus, photographed beautifully by Henrik Purienne. No cleavage, but a lovely sprinkling of freckles across her nose and cheeks.

Inside, there is no full-on nudity, from Miss Asmus or any other model; you'd see as much flesh in most fashion magazines or ads. In fact the most revealing photo is a throwback shot to 1965, showing two ladies in a tanning room, at the old Chicago Playboy mansion.
Thumbing through the issue I found the ubiquitous James Franco interviewing director Wes Anderson. I haven't read it yet, but it has to be better than the interview Franco gave to Jerry Saltz in New York magazine last week, in which the actor/artist attempted to explain himself as an artist. It was a grueling ordeal, attempting to decipher Franco's many, many words and I actually happen to like him — as an actor.
But I think his next "art project" should be a careful study of the monosyllabic reply!
SHOWTIME'S "Penny Dreadful" returned for season three over the weekend. This is one of the most fascinating and deliberately "out there" series on TV — a dark, lurid crazy quilt of fictional villains, monsters and killers, all of whom just happen to exist in the same era, and pal around with one another.

Everybody has returned — Dr. Frankenstein and his Creature (and his Creature's creature, the depraved Lily!) ... Dorian Gray ... The Wolfman ... and of course, the cynosure of every monster's eye and fang, the tormented Vanessa Ives, played with tragic ferocity by Eva Green. Still on hand as well is Timothy Dalton as Sir Malcolm.
The season opener introduced Dr. Jekyll (sexy Shazad Latif) and Dracula. We haven't actually seen The Big Vampire yet — we only hear Drac's voice, as he enslaves the hapless Renfield ("Give me your throat!"). But even with the ancient bloodsucker unseen, it was probably the greatest Dracula "entrance" ever — and that includes the immortal original, Bela Lugosi, standing at the foot of the stairs, in his creepy old castle.
Also — and praise be to the dead, undead and confused who populate "Penny Dreadful" — but this season we have Patti LuPone back! Last year, she appeared in a few episodes as a woman accused of witchcraft, burnt at the stake. That seemed to seal the deal on her returning. But I guess I forgot the kind of show this is. Now she's installed as Dr. Seward, a therapist treating Vanessa. (In Bram Stoker's "Dracula" Seward was a male doctor at an insane asylum. "PD" is an unalloyed, unapologetic monster mash!)
Miss LuPone promises to be her usual compelling self. Her opening scene with Eva Green was priceless, telling her in matter-of-fact fashion that sessions cost ten shillings, "the same price as a fairly good dentist" so she (Eva/Vanessa) could either submit to therapy, or "go have your teeth fixed."

It was only five minutes, but LuPone burned a hole right through the small screen!
Welcome back, "Penny Dreadful."

With Denis Ferrara

Contact Liz here.