Barbarella, Jane Fonda's Horny Sci-Fi Sex Kitten: Facts And Trivia

By | October 11, 2020

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Jane Fonda in 'Barbarella.' Source: IMDB

The 1968 film Barbarella gives us Jane Fonda at the peak of her sex-kitten phase. A pleasure-seeking, galaxy-hopping adventurer, the titular heroine came to define an aesthetic, sort of a groovy and mod vision of science-fiction that envisions the galaxy as a humorless nightclub where everyone gets lucky but nobody seems to enjoy it. Barbarella, directed by Fonda's then-husband Roger Vadim, is not a good movie, but that is almost beside the point. Jane Fonda in revealing and outrageous futuristic fashion, reveling in a future that was all about sexual freedom -- that was the point.

Nobody Has Accused 'Barbarella' Of Being A Good Movie

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John Phillip Law and Jane Fonda in 'Barbarella.' Source: IMDB

Barbarella opens with a scene of Jane Fonda stripping out of a space suit in zero-gravity. It's playful, titillating and effective, suggesting that the movie might be a fun and sexy answer to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, released earlier that year. (This hopeful thought turns out not to be the case, not at all.) Critics and viewers generally like that iconic opening sequence; beyond that, the movie disappoints, sooner or later, with a convoluted plot and a dreadful script. If only Barbarella could have delivered on the fun promise of its beginning -- but there are no do-overs in cinema, only remakes.

Writing in the New York Times, Renata Adler said that Barbarella

rapidly becomes a special kind of mess. All the gadgetry of science fiction—which is not really science fiction, since it has no poetry or logic—is turned to all kinds of jokes, which are not jokes, but hard-breathing, sadistic thrashings, mainly at the expense of Barbarella, and of women. There are special effects, of no imagination. There is Marcel Marceau, the brilliant French mime, talking, in a particularly boring part. ... Throughout the movie, there is the assumption that just mentioning a thing (sex, politics, religion) makes it funny and that mentioning it in some offensive context (an angel is jocularly, Daliesquely crucified; Barbarella is picturesquely, viciously bitten by some children's toys) makes it funnier. It is a humorist-advertiser's kind of experiment: Let's stab this through the midriff and see if anyone salutes it.

So, to be clear, Renata Adler did not like the movie.