Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Love on a Pillow (1962)
The English title is very unfortunate, giving the impression (undoubtedly intentional from a commercial point of view) that this is going to be a frothy romantic comedy. The original French title Le repos du guerrier would be more accurately translated as Repose of the Warrior and this gives the clue that this is in fact a psycho-sexual melodrama.
Bardot is Geneviève Le Theil, a young woman who has just inherited a vast fortune from her aunt. She’s also engaged to be married to a very pleasant and very decent young man and life for Geneviève seems to be a rather untroubled progress towards personal and marital happiness.
His name is Renaud Sarti. At first he seems charming in a quirky sort of way, and he is quite good-looking. He’s obviously keen to sleep with her and she’s not entirely verse to the idea and pretty soon they’re lovers. Their relationship is fun at first. She doesn’t even worry too much about his drinking or his irresponsibility. She is falling in love with him. He hangs around with an arty bohemian crowd and has vague pretensions to being creative although he’s never actually achieved anything or even attempted anything in any artistic field. In these circles wanting to be creative is just as good as the real thing. Actually doing anything would be hopelessly bourgeois.
Renaud’s behaviour becomes more and more obnoxious and unpredictable. He’s no longer fun. Now he’s gone all existential on her. He’s tortured by the loss of freedom that a permanent relationship entails. He feels trapped and angst-ridden, poor boy. To Renaud this is the stuff of tragedy although to anyone else it’s simply adolescent self-indulgence.
The movie is obviously trying to deal seriously with the social changes occurring throughout the western world in the late 50s and 60s. Freedom opposed to responsibility, free love opposed to marriage, etc. It’s unfortunate that Renaud is such an unsympathetic character but it’s not really a fatal weakness. It makes it easier for us to see things from Geneviève’s point of view, and it prevents the movie from taking a simplistic “freedom is always good and marriage is always oppressive” position.
Writer-director Vadim has been widely regarded as a lightweight purveyor of mildly titillating fluff but this is a rather unfair judgment on a quite interesting if uneven film-maker. The Region 4 DVD is lacking in the extras department but looks terrific. A slightly offbeat movie that is definitely worth getting hold of. If you’re not already a Bardot fan this will give you a taste of the versatility of this underrated actress. Highly recommended.