Brigitte Bardot has absurdly great hair in this movie, and likes to sunbathe nude in the garden, so all the boys are after her, to the disapproval of her foster parents. Land baron Curd Jurgens (Richard Burton’s rival in Bitter Victory) is feuding with holdout landowner Christian Marquand (Flight of the Phoenix), and both think they’ve got a chance with Brigitte, but when she’s threatened with losing her home, wallflower J-L Trintignant steps up and marries her. Marriage isn’t much of an impediment to the other two guys, and J-L (beaten up by the local ruffian minutes after his wedding) isn’t strong enough to hold onto her, so people get shot and boats get burned up. Good-looking at least, from Clouzot’s usual guy. Not exactly a vital cinema classic, but in the early days of Criterion DVDs, we took whatever we could get.

Brigitte Bardot is woken up for court, checks herself in a broken sliver of mirror, and goes to stand trial for murdering her boyfriend Gilbert, who also turns out to be her sister’s fiancee. They discuss her past suicide attempts, which the prosecution dismisses as theatrical, then the Walter Matthau-looking prosecutor (Charles Vanel of Wages of Fear and Diabolique) carries on attacking not only her crime and her entire way of life, but the entire youth culture.

Deadly mirror:

Incriminating photo:

They criticise her for being loose, then they criticise her for NOT being loose with Gilbert (Sami Frey, in Godard’s Band of Outsiders the year after Bardot was in Contempt). “Mademoiselle, you are not exactly virginal. Why did you put off the only man you claim to have loved?” But it’s the proc’s job to attack her character, since it’s not in question whether she committed the crime, only whether it was a crime of passion, which carries a lesser punishment than premeditated murder.

Through flashback stories, Gilbert emerges as selfish, using the hot girl for sex while he’s a student, promising her marriage while he’s too broke to marry, then wedding the proper sister (Marie-José Nat of Anatomy of a Marriage) once his boat comes in.

Love triangle:

Creeping around an Alexander Nevsky poster:

“For seven months, all he offered her was his bed, and that only for fleeting moments, not to upset his routine. For months she goes hungry, begging, even prostituting herself. Did he reach out a helping hand? No, and you call that love?” This from the defense, which upsets her even more than the prosecution, the thought that Gilbert may not have loved her. Her suicide note, when she finally does herself in with the broken bit of mirror from the first scene, says “He loved me, but we didn’t love each other at the same time.”

Has its share of slow courtroom drama scenes, Bardot motionless, looking like a cardboard cutout of a pouty blonde and its share of less-than-thrilling backstory, but it’s a sharp looking movie and the plot comes together satisfactorily (for the viewer if not for Bardot’s character) at the end.

Bardot’s sister isn’t about to testify on her behalf, so Bardot’s friends come out to give character references, probably lost on the court which already declared them to be lowlifes. Above at left is Ludovic, André Oumansky (Burnt by the Sun). Could the middle man be future director Claude Berri? He was 26 when he appeared in this, and is credited sequentially with the other two, so it might be. [NOTE: not Berri, see comment below] Michel (Jean-Loup Reynold) gives the most impassioned and coherent defense, dismissing the court just as the court dismissed Bardot’s way of life. “Dominique is here because she rejected hypocritical conventions. We’re different. Young people should judge her.”