Today’s edition of Hit Me with Your Best Shot, the weekly blogiverse featured hosted by The Film Experience, takes us running, screaming, into the mouth of out-and-out schlock; though tarring 1968’s Barbarella, directed by art-smut specialist Roger Vadim and produced by out-of-control Italian wizard and madman Dino De Laurentiis as mere “shlock” makes it sound like something small and normal and comprehensibly bad, none of which is accurate. Barbarella is a mad and deranged example of heterosexual camp, parodying sci-fi, sex, women, spectacular cinema, and narrative logic in a pulp-informed romp through wildly over-designed and under-financed otherworldly locations, and I love it all out of proportion to anything that it can plausibly be said to do “right”.
Trying to scrounge up one single image that encapsulates the whole experience of a movie with this much pop-art kitschiness has been, I’ve found, next to impossible, especially since taste and a desire to keep out of the NSFW thickets forbids me from selecting the most obvious possible choice, a shot from Jane Fonda’s film-opening “zero gravity” striptease (which, like all of the sex in this movie – and there’s so much sex – tries to marry eroticism with camp, and doesn’t entirely know how to make that happen). Though certainly, that striptease is a real doozy.
Still, it would be a terrible mistake to avoid sex altogether, in considering a movie that is so enthusiastically about sex, and thus I arrived, after great deliberation, here:
You are here looking at a shot of Barbarella (Fonda), having failed her way across most of the movie, captured by the villainous scientist Durand-Durand (Milo O’Shea), and locked into the Excessive Machine, something like a pipe organ made of rippling boards that, when played, causes enthusiastic and fatal orgasms in the victim. By this point in the film, Barbarella has discovered that the post-sex life of an Earth woman many centuries in the future is no match for plenty of good ol’ fashioned screwing, or even technologically-enhanced screwing, and she enjoys the Excessive Machine’s ministrations so much that she manages to break it before it kills her; that moment is still a bit ahead of my pick for best shot, in which Fonda gamely writhes and moans while being trapped in the middle of a set of garishly ugly and corrupt industrial trappings. And that is the very essence of Barbarella.
Though I did very nearly go with a much less appreciative take on the film (couldn’t pull the trigger: even in snark, I’m too fond of the movie), and this runner-up shot:
Because a blind person holding a gun randomly and not really knowing what they’re firing at or if they’re going to hit anything, while wearing no shirt, is just about the perfect one-sentence summary of this movie.
P.S. We are not done discussing Barbarella on this blog, not by any means. More coming soon…