Plucking the Daisy
Like many blonde vixens, Brigitte Bardot has something wrong with her face. It's a broad, flat visage, with wide, buck teeth and a cleft chin, not at all as "cute" a face as her ultimate French girl reputation suggests. But then (like many blonde vixens), Bardot isn't really a blonde she started out as a brunette. In that manifestation, she was the perfect French Catholic school girl. Rising to fame in France in mid-'50s, it wasn't until she was seized upon by the teens and the intellectuals of the world that her image took off, and she became the BB of international lust and imitation. In a way, Bardot peaked a little early. She really has a '60s face, born to be crowned with long straight blond hair and wear black eye liner; like Pamela Anderson, she made a progression from girl-next-door to sucubus with no aparrent gradiation. But what can the contemporary viewer make of her? There's a moment in 1956's Plucking the Daisy (en effeuillant la marguerite) when Bardot is walking down the street in a long coat, nonchalantly swinging her purse. It only lasts for about a second, but it is a quintessential French New Wave moment created unconsciously a few years before the New Wave's birth, and recreated constantly within the New Wave films of Godard and others. That insouciance is what Bardot represented to young filmmakers, and that's what she represents to viewers now, a symbol of the liberation that she and the later New Wave directors brought to cinema, a kind of sun-drenched pursuit of sensuality in a still reeling post-war France. Like many of Bardot's vehicles, Plucking the Daisy (aka Mam'selle Striptease, Please Mr. Balzac, and While Plucking the Daisy) does not bear the weight of the enthusiasm her fans and critics bring to Bardot herself. Bardot plays Agnés Dumont. The daughter of a Vichy general, she has written a scandalous novel about her provincial village and flees to visit her painter brother in Paris, where she has a series of adventures with a randy and unpleasant newspaper reporter (Daniel Gélin) and his crew of lechers, culminating in her winning a striptease contest, the raison d'etre of the movie being to get Bardot nude or at least semi-nude. With its naughty animated credit sequence and cavalcade of slapstick males, its a very American-style comedy that easily could have starred Jimmy Stewart, Sandra Dee, and Michael Callan a few years later. The film is indifferently directed by Marc Allégret, a disciple of André Gide, who discovered Bardot on a magazine cover. Plucking the Daisy has some minor historical relevance, because with Allégret, Bardot met Roger Vadim, who went on to become the Svengali that brought her international fame via ...And God Created Woman, introducing pouty lips and ponytails to the world's teenage girls. The film has its minor virtues: Alexandre Trauner, Billy Wilder's favorite production designer, does some wonderfully chaotic sets, and the jazzy bongo score by Paul Misraki is delightful and anticipates American sex comedies of the '60s. Home Vision Entertainment's DVD release offers a new, spotless digital transfer of the full-frame, black-and-white image, with Dolby 2.0 audio and newly translated digital English subtitles. Extras consist of the (untranslated) trailer for Plucking the Daisy, and trailers for two other Bardot films from HVE, The Night Heaven Fell and ...And God Created Woman. There's also a detailed Bardot filmography, a packet of four Bardot postcards, and a four-page insert with an essay by Chris Gore with a reproduction of the movie's poster and other images. Keep-case.