DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
VIVA MARIA! (director/writer: Louis Malle; screenwriter: Jean-Claude Carrière; cinematographer: Henri Decaë; editors: Suzanne Baron/Kenout Peltier; music: Georges Delerue; cast: Jeanne Moreau (Maria II), Brigitte Bardot (Maria I), George Hamilton ( Flores), Paulette Dubost (Mme Diogène), Claudio Brook (The Great Rodolfo), Poldo Bendandi (Werther), Carlos López Moctezuma (Rodríguez), Francisco Reiguera (Father Superior), José Ángel Espinoza (The Dictator of San Miguel), Fernando Wagner (Bardot's Irish father), Luis Rizo (Strongman); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Óscar Dancigers; MGM Home Entertainment; 1965-France-French with English subtitles)

 
"It's a ludicrous commercial film that's about as empty as most costume extravaganzas, but because it's so genial has crowd-pleasing appeal."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A fluff French comedy that has two of France's most famous bombshells, Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau, team up as dance hall performers in a traveling vaudeville troupe across the Central America of the early nineteen hundreds. Director Louis Malle ("Pretty Baby"/"Elevator to the Gallows"/"May Fools"), along with his co-writer Jean-Claude Carrière, keeps it carefree, fast-moving and filled with sight gags (most of which miss their mark). The filmmakers send up a lighthearted satire of revolutions, religion and sex, that has no conviction but plenty of silliness.

Maria 1 (Brigitte Bardot) is the tomboyish daughter of a mad bomber Irish anarchist, a dynamite expert, who is killed in Central America circa 1910. The orphaned Maria hooks up soon afterwards with a traveling showbiz troupe and partners with Maria 2 (Jeanne Moreau), whose partner just committed suicide when her lover deserted her, in a dance hall act. When Bardot's skirt accidentally rips during a saloon performance the girls do a striptease down to their bloomers and become a big hit. Later Moreau falls for San Miguel's glassy-eyed revolutionist Flores (George Hamilton) and the two showgals unwittingly get involved in a violent Mexican peasant revolt as they reject crooked land barons, the government militia and priests with torture chambers to lead a ragtag peasant army. Bardot's early training with dad in the use of dynamite comes in handy, as the bombshells use bombs against the forces of an oppressive banana republic.

It's a ludicrous commercial film that's about as empty as most costume extravaganzas, but because it's so genial has crowd-pleasing appeal. The bright colors photographed by Henri Decaë, the lively songs by Georges Delerue and the good chemistry between Bardot and Moreau keep it watchable, though it has its irritating moments for those demanding more than harmless hollow entertainment. 

REVIEWED ON 11/2/2007        GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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