Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Come Dance With Me! (1959)

My Brigitte Bardot obsession continues to grow. It’s not an easy obsession to follow since her movies are not all that easy to find in Australia, but I do my best. My most recent find was Come Dance With Me! (Voulez-vous danser avec moi?).

Made in 1959, this is a murder mystery but done in a strictly light-hearted way, with generous helpings of comedy and romance.

Bardot is Virginie, a young woman who falls in love with a dentist named Hervé and despite the opposition of her father marries him. They have a silly little lovers’ tiff and he takes refuge in a local bar. He meets a woman there who offers to dance with him, and also offers a shoulder to cry on. He is persuaded to drive her home, and then is persuaded to come in for just one drink. One thing leads to another and pretty soon he has his head buried between her breasts. At which point her co-conspirator snaps some very incriminating photos. Our hapless dentist has been set up by a blackmailing operation.

The unlucky dentist hasn’t really done anything terribly wrong, he hasn’t technically been unfaithful, but such photos are rather difficult to explain away. He confronts the blackmailing woman, but she is insistent, and when he turns up to a second meeting at her dance studio he discovers her dead body, Which is very embarrassing indeed given that he has a very strong motive for wanting her dead.

To make things more complicated for our unfortunate dentist, Virginie has followed him to his meeting with the blackmailer and arrives to find him standing over her lifeless body. Now he has to convince her of his innocence. And having done that, he’s going to need her help in proving his innocence to the police.

Luckily Virginie takes to amateur detective work like a duck to water. And that’s one of the things I like about Bardot’s movies. She might often seem to be set up as a superficially stereotypical movie dumb blonde but her characters generally turn out not to be dumb at all. They’re often wildly eccentric, but never dumb. In this movie she’s rather ditzy but that doesn’t prevent her from being a better crime-solver than the police.

Another thing I like about Bardot’s movies is that she’s usually extremely funny but when we laugh at her it’s always in an affectionate way. We don’t laugh at her because she’s ridiculous or stupid.

Come Dance With Me! is rather racy for a 1959 movie, even for a 1959 French movie. The heroine’s quest for justice leads her to a gay bar in Paris, and we’re treated to a drag show. And there’s no hedging about the subject matter. There’s no subtext here.

Of course what really matters with this type of movie is whether it’s entertaining or not, and this one is very entertaining. It’s a well-crafted murder mystery and it’s a fun romantic farce as well. And Bardot is delightful, as always.

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