Icons / June 2019

Brigitte Bardot: Queen of the Côte d’Azur

A gust of fresh air in the stifling social atmosphere of her time, Brigitte Bardot lived up to the ‘sex-kitten’ role as well as she embodied it…

Bardot posing on her Riva speedboat in Saint-Tropez, 1962.

The sexiest scene in movie history is not Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie’s tussle between Venetian bed sheets in the 1973 psychological thriller Don’t Look Now. Neither is it Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman’s sapphic tryst in 2010’s Black Swan. It’s not the nihilistic orgy in Lars von Trier’s The Idiots, the bookshelf knee-trembler between Keira Knightley and James McAvoy in Atonement, or any of the classification board-ruffling cross-cuts in Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mamá También.

No, the sexiest scene committed to celluloid involved no nudity, saw no physical contact between the actors, and was soundtracked not by some tenor-sax bra-remover in C minor but by a Carioca-lite cacophony of pounding bongos. I’m referring, of course, to the famous dance scene in Et Dieu... Créa La Femme (And God Created Woman), in which Brigitte Bardot plays a young orphan indulging in an unbridled bonk-fest in 1950s Saint-Tropez. In the scene in question, Bardot — barefoot, unkempt, skirt flailing, insouciance and sensuality leaping from her pores right through the camera lens — flounders and table-dances for an ensemble of libido-stupefied men in a sequence that will have the most querulous Darwinist nodding in agreement with the movie’s title.

Only she could have done the scene. Without her — without the extraordinary sequence of chemical base pairs residing in her 30 trillion cells — the movie wouldn’t have worked. For Bardot’s radiant sexual charisma belongs to her alone. The slight physical imperfections — the gap between her front teeth and a profile that, mid-pout, could come across as a sneer of incredulous contempt at others’ ordinariness — somehow complemented her more conventionally beautiful traits: the delineated feline eyes, the breeze-bouffanted hair, the plush lips, and a physique that came on leaps, bounds and entrechats thanks to ballet sessions at the Conservatoire de Paris.

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