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Anchor Bay presents
Les Femmes (1969)

"I've had two great passions: women...and freedom."
- Jerome Herve (Maurice Ronet)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: November 26, 2000

Stars: Brigitte Bardot, Maurice Ronet
Other Stars: Jean-Pierre Marielle, Annie Duperey, Christina Holm, Joelle Latour, Tanya Lopert
Director: Jean Aurel

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexual situations, language)
Run Time: 01h:26m:08
Release Date: April 25, 2000
UPC: 013131106497
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+C-C+ D

DVD Review

This disc features one of the last films that Brigitte Bardot made, an exploration of the psyche of a man who loves many women (if not all women) but can't bear to be tied to any one of them. Set in late 1960s France and Rome, connected via train, it gives us an interesting time capsule of sexual relations in a pre-AIDS era where the new morality came head to head with the desire for traditional relationships and marriage.

Writer Jerome Herve (Maurice Ronet) is a womanizing playboy who writes his passionate but transient relationships into his best-selling books. About to be married to two different women, he has his publisher arrange for a new secretary to accompany him to Rome, subject to a rather unusual contract: she must do anything that he asks. When Clara (Bardot) applies for the job, she recognizes the contract as the whoredom which it is, but rises to the challenge and accepts the position nonetheless. As Herve dictates his new novel which provides an overview of some of his relationships, he attempts to seduce Clara but learns that even if compliant with the contract's terms, he is unable to make her love him as he wants.

The succession of girlfriends represents a number of different sides of the feminine personality: Anne de Montfort, his first conquest, represents the emotional and the innocent. Marianne (Christina Holm) is the purely physical, and Helene (Annie Duperey) is the defiant, competitive and unattainable. All of these qualities are combined in Clara, and not surprisingly she is the most challenging of all. In part, Herve is himself to blame: he has influenced women, both in his relationships and his novels, to desire freedom as much as he does himself. The result is that when he is ready to commit, not only is it difficult to find a woman who will do so, but in a dream sequence at the end his greatest fear is made clear: that women will discover that they much prefer the company of each other to that of men.

Ronet gives a good performance as the would-be Don Juan who ultimately is manipulated by the feminine forces that he thinks he controls. Bardot is outstanding, aided by a script which makes her a character full of cryptic non sequitirs that Herve cannot begin to understand. Her fascination for the mysterious man with a moustache on the train as well as her stated commitment to a man only briefly glimpsed seeing her off and about whom we learn nothing more, help underlie the themes of the film. The extensive use of a handheld camera (especially in the sequences on the train) gives a sense of verismo to the proceedings which helps ground things; a typical Cinemascope presentation would merely get in the way of the message.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This is by far the worst appearing of the discs in the Brigitte Bardot Collection set released thus far by Anchor Bay. Contrary to the claim of using the original negatives, a UK print is instead used for the source material here (the subtitles, with a number of British phrases, are burned into the picture). The Eastmancolor has not survived well, with the colors mostly vanished other than red. The reds are present in plenty, making skin tones appear highly unnatural. Black levels are good, however. The picture is quite soft and lacking in definition, and is quite grainy. There's not a lot of damage to the print other than the faded color, however, beyond occasional jitters and missing frames. Speckling is quite minimal.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The audio is decent, but again not as good as on the other volumes in this set. Significant hiss comes from the surround channels, which is occasionally irritating. Music suffers some minor distortion, and occasional warbling indicates some serious problems with the source once again. It's unfortunate that one of the better volumes of the series wasn't presentable in better condition.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The only significant extra is the same lengthy Bardot biography and selected filmography present on the other discs in the set. No trailer is included. Chaptering is barely adequate, though some chapters run rather longer than is really desirable. Subtitles are burned in.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

An intriguing picture of sexual permissiveness in late 1960s France, with good performances all the way around. Unfortunately, the effect is somewhat spoiled by poor source material. Definitely worth a look, if you're not too critical about the presentation.


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