Honoring the Heroine: Maria and Maria

I think it is high time to take a look at French movies. I admit, it pains me that way too often the American audience has a limited awareness of everything which is not made in Hollywood – even though they would certainly like a lot of those movies, judging by the countless American remakes of European and Asian movies which do their very best to bury the (often superior) original under their success.

The movie I want to discuss today didn’t got a remake though, because frankly, it is impossible to copy the presence and sex-appeal of Jeanne Moreau and Brigitte Bardot. In 1962 when Viva Maria! was produced, their names alone were a guarantee for full theatres, and it was certainly not just for their stellar acting abilities, but also for their good looks. Not surprisingly, Viva Maria! banks heavily on this aspect.


Very heavily!

In fact the most memorable scenes are certainly the ones in which the two are standing on stage. Especially this one:

So on a cursory glance, this looks like the last movie I would pick for a blog about a well-written heroines. But that is exactly what Maria and Maria are, not at least because the movie spends a lot of time to introduce those two characters to the audience.

Maria II grew up as the daughter of an Irish terrorist. A chanson at the start of the movie narrates how her father used her early on to set bombs in various places all over the world to hurt the English Empire, until one day she is forced to blew up a bridge while he is still on it.

Nope, I am not kidding. I doubt that you would nowadays find a filmmaker who deals with terrorism in such a nonchalant way. I admit, it is somewhat refreshing.

Maria II has to hide from the English Army and eventually encounters Maria I, a travelling performer, who just lost her partner to suicide. The two pair up and go on adventure together. In short, this movie is basically a buddy comedy – with two woman as main characters. They become famous, somehow become the lead figures of a revolution, are captured – you know, all the good stuff. And in a way, not really important. It doesn’t really matter what kind of adventure they experience, what matters is that there are two woman who are connected through a close friendship, even though their characters are very different. Maria II, now free from being the puppet of her father, becomes a “manizer”, collecting affairs in every city and just enjoying life. Maria I used to play classical roles in front of a famous audience, but she is taking her current position with stride, treating everything which happens to her as a big experience.

I think, Jeanne Moreau said it the best what makes this particular movie so good: “Films have never shown the kind of relationship that can exist between two women. Men like to think that women must be constantly jealous of each other, never trusting, never in rapport. That is not true, of course, certainly not today. This film could show that.” It’s more than just the basic idea of the movie, though. She and Brigitte Bordeaux managed to infuse the two protagonists with so much energy that they have become fascinating characters, which deserve to be remembered. (And really, why aren’t there more movies with two female leads which don’t end in tragedy?).

Quote: “Ave Maria y Maria”

Just watch the vid. If you like it, this movie (which is, btw, available both with subtitles or English dubbing, though I can say nothing about the quality of either – the German dub is certainly well done) might be the perfect watch for a lazy evening. The jokes are sometimes hit and miss, and there are so many scenes which are just there for a quick laugh that they are overstaying their welcome a little bit (twenty minutes less might have been the perfect length), but all in all, it is very enjoyable. If for nothing else, then for the energy of two great actresses.

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