Directed by Fonda's then-husband Roger Vadim, written by Vadim and Terry Southern and adapted from the comic by Jean-Claude Forest and Claude Brule, "Barbarella" definitely accomplishes its purpose of making Jane into a top symbol of power and freedom. For years and years thereafter, though, Fonda almost never mentioned "Barbarella" again except when asked about it directly. During her protest phase, Fonda disparaged it. It didn't fit into her attempts to be taken "seriously" as an opponent of the Vietnam War and advocate for various other causes.
However, more recently, Fonda has had a change of heart. She has spoken of "Barbarella" almost, um, Fonda-ly.
“I have a dream – to do a sequel to ‘Barbarella.’ Not a remake, a sequel! Look, I get shtupped by a blind angel, OK? Let’s just take it from there.”
Fonda professes to see the humor in the whole premise.
“I think it could be funny – and feminist.”Jane is a very complicated woman, evidently. While she blows the horn of empowerment and independence, Jane throughout her life has preferred the company of strong men - who she later spitefully disparages after she leaves them. Word is that, at the time, Jane just wanted to do whatever would make Vadim happy, and what made him happy in 1968 was "Barbarella." People who only see the political Jane are missing the underlying comfort she apparently finds in pleasing her man, which is not radical at all. If one wanted to psychoanalyze her, the political stuff that has caused her so much anger through the years can be seen as her acting out like a little girl against her daddy-figure fixation. The real Jane is on display as Barbarella, an intergalactic kitten prancing for her man.
"Barbarella" led directly to Jane's award-winning role in "They Shoot Horses, Don't They," which Fonda herself apparently considers the turning point of her career.
Some actresses have to go the full Monty and get naked to accomplish this task. Virna Lisi and Sophia Loren both angrily turned the role down because of its risque scenes. When it's too much for those two, it's pretty far out there... Jane was close enough to the Big Leagues to get away with only doing the most provocative of clothed poses. This film is a collection of such poses and little more. All the weapons look like giant dildos. My favorite line of dialog in the film? At the very beginning, when Barbarella is naked and receives a video call from the President, She says, "I'll put something on." His reply? "Don't trouble yourself." Hail to the Chief!
|Jane looks like a giant bird in "Barbarella."|
The tone of the film is set right from the opening credits, during which our heroine Barbarella does a teasing little striptease. It doesn't get any more intellectual after that.
It is amazing to hear Jane's flat, no-nonsense accent joined with this wacky character. The dialog is just hilarious if you pay attention: "Have you seen an angel anywhere?"; "What is it?" "Essence of man."'; "Earth woman, do you know what I like" ... "I think I know"; "You are so good, you made the Matmos vomit."; "We are doomed...DOOMED."; "De-crucify him or I melt your face."; "To the Matmos with this winged fruitcake!"; Terry Southern just went to town with this script, it is absolutely hysterical if you can manage to understand all the rushed and mumbled lines.
Add to that Jane's extremely odd vocal inflections (interrupted during hand gestures which apparently reflect some kind of deep interpersonal communion, Jane looks up and chirps, "Hello there!", as if the house mother just came in to serve tea). Fonda has a Dorothy-in-Oz rube-just-fell-off-the-turnip-truck guilelessness about her at times of extreme innuendo - and, at others, perfectly knowing smirks during moments of high camp - that makes it a wildly eccentric (and full of campy deliciousness) performance. Watching her fake a climax is just otherworldly, no other legitimate 60's actress would even have deigned to attempt it.
John Phillip Law shows up as some kind of Angel, with wings and everything. He is as wooden as a California redwood. David Hemmings tries to act (he's pretty much alone in that, except for Fonda), and it just seems to confuse things. Anita Pallenberg keeps saying "pretty pretty," which was one of the film's defining catchphrases when it came out, and veers between wanton lust and maniacal posturing.
Milo O'Shea, as Durand Durand, has some jaw-dropping scenes at the end that define (and had to inspire some Austin Powers sketches) the "maniacally cackling madman thinking he is about the 'Nothing can stop me now... master of the universe... hahahahahahaha.'" But the focus always remains on our heroine, Jane.
|Jane wears this outfit memorably in "Barbarella."|
|This must have been a wild set to work on.|
If she hadn't made this film, she probably wouldn't have become so full of herself and her own wonderfulness and sagacity that she wound up on that North Korean anti-aircraft battery during the height of the Vietnam War. That hurt a lot of people, and she regrets that misstep to this day. Some mistakes can't be retracted. Success can be double-edged. As I like to say, if you judged art by the politics of the artist, you could never enter a museum or turn on the Television. Once you go down that road, you may as well become a hermit, because most art is created by people you would never want to be in the same room with.
But that was her mistake, not ours. There is nothing wrong with enjoying Jane showing off her curves before she unwisely got political. You can stir up quite a debate about which of Jane's films shows her off to her best advantage. Some would say "Klute," others "Cat Ballou," still others this film. There are several other good candidates, but the discussion at some point always swings around to "Barbarella."
|Jane Fonda, Warrior Princess, in "Barbarella."|
|Jane has that just... woken up look in "Barbarella."|
|Hand jive!!!!! Watch Jane's hair go from straight to giant curls during this! His name is Dildano! No, they don't make them like "Barbarella" anymore.|
|Durand-Durand sure is odd - wouldn't he rather be in that crazy machine with Barbarella?|
|It is the universe of a shag carpet! The fellow in the background can hardly contain his excitement in "Barbarella."|
|Lips were big in the Sixties, but this is ridiculous.|
"Barbarella" is worth your time, check it out!