Wednesday 25 October 2023

Movie Review: Barbarella (1968)

Genre: Campy Science Fiction
Director: Roger Vadim
Starring: Jane Fonda, John Phillip Law, Anita Pallenberg 
Running Time: 98 minutes

Synopsis: In a peaceful future, Earth's President tasks space adventurer Barbarella (Jane Fonda) with finding dangerous weapons inventor Durand Durand. She crashlands in the Tau Ceti planetary system and heads to the city of Sogo, receiving help from the blind angel Pygar (John Phillip Law) along the way. Barbarella finds a civilization consumed by villainy and meets the Catchman, the Concierge, Professor Ping, rebel leader Dildano (David Hemmings), and the Great Tyrant (Anita Pallenberg), before uncovering Durand Durand's identity and evil plot.

What Works Well: Barbarella's opening striptease out of an astronaut suit is iconic, and the weird mash-up of psychedelia, eroticism, and cardboard-level science fiction is often imaginative. Whether naked or in a succession of revealing outfits, Jane Fonda embraces the adventure and exudes wide-eyed curiosity, and the futuristic palm-on-palm pleasure exchange is a hoot.

What Does Not Work As Well: The nonsensical plot is disjointed and quickly boring, stretching for content and only finding successively less impressive set-pieces. The swirly special effects are repetitively over-used to cover the narrative weaknesses. Barbarella is less of an instigator and more an observer, happy to discover the pleasures of old-fashioned coupling but lacking any actual plan or ability to save the universe.

Conclusion: Fanciful visuals and an irreverent attitude fizzle within space debris. 

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