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  Do You Want to Dance with Me? Mambo and murder
Year: 1959
Director: Michel Boisrond
Stars: Brigitte Bardot, Henri Vidal, Dawn Addams, Dario Moreno, Georges Descrières, Serge Gainsbourg, Joyce Johnson, Maria Pacome, Noël Roquevert, Paul Frankeur, Magdaleine Berubet, Philippe Nicaud
Genre: Comedy, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: It was love at first sight for dentist Hervé Dandieu (Henri Vidal). The moment he met the delectable Virginie (Brigitte Bardot) they started flirting while her papa Albert (Noël Roquevert) was squirming in the dentist’s chair. Soon they were married, much to Albert’s displeasure. But moments later we find them having a terrible row. After Virginie walks out on Hervé, he drowns his sorrows at the nearest nightclub where he meets sultry dance instructor Anita Flores (Dawn Addams), who seems similarly fed up with her spouse. While canoodling at Anita’s apartment, Hervé sees the error of his ways and heads home, unaware her shifty shutterbug boyfriend Leon (Serge Gainsbourg) has caught him on camera. Having repaired his romance with Virginie, Hervé is blackmailed by Anita over the incriminating photos. A suspicious Virginie follows as Hervé goes to confront Anita at the dance studio, only to discover her lying dead on the floor, leaving him prime suspect in a murder case. So Virginie goes undercover as the sexy new dance instructor to catch the real killer.

Also known as Come Dance with Me, Voulez-vous danser avec moi? (Do You Want to Dance with Me?) was a box-office disaster in France, prompting producer Raoul Lévy - the man who discovered Brigitte Bardot - to end his screen partnership with the legendary star. He even went on record as saying, in his opinion, B.B. was all washed-up, her career in ruins. Fortunately that did not prove to be the case as her popularity endured throughout the ensuing decade. As for the film itself, it is far from horrendous, indeed often quite charming in its shift from light romantic comedy to sub-Hitchcockian thriller, yet remains mired in mediocrity by simply courting those fixated on Bardot’s “beautiful dimwit” roles in films like Babette Goes to War (1959) and The Ravishing Idiot (1964), when she was fully capable of combining sex appeal with more provocative and intelligent roles, e.g. En Cas de malheur (1958), A Very Private Affair (1962) and, of course, Contempt (1963). Brigitte Bardot might have been the “blonde bombshell” but she was not the “dumb blonde.”

This was the third of four collaborations between Bardot and Michel Boisrond who routinely crafted frothy and frivolous vehicles for the star, like Cette sacree gamine a.k.a. That Naughty Girl (1956) and Une Parisienne (1957). Based on the novel “The Blonde Died Dancing” by Kelley Roos, the multi-authored screenplay featured input from Boisrond and Gérard Oury - who later directed some of France’s most popular comedies of all time, including Don't Look Now - We're Being Shot At! (1966) a.k.a. La Grande Vadrouille and L’as des As (1982) - and is somewhat tonally uncertain. One minute we’re mired in a labyrinthine whodunnit, the next we are watching lengthy scenes where Bardot shakes her hips doing the mambo or the tango, driving Anita’s sleazy husband (Dario Moreno) into a sexual frenzy (“That hair! That waist! Those legs!”). At the time the film was dismissed as yet another flimsy excuse to watch Bardot parade onscreen in an array of even flimsier outfits (her baby-doll nightie is really something). Truth be told her sensuality does dominate the film, as in one scene where she confesses her fantasy about watching men strip (she later spies on a group of men in the shower), but where the film scores is by showing Virginie’s carefree sexuality stems from her overall confidence, fortitude and intelligence. Her character is actually well written, as she grasps the unfolding murder mystery with all the enthusiasm of a child playing super-sleuth it is not hard to be as charmed as investigating Inspector Marchal (Paul Frankeur).

Individual scenes are elegantly scripted and performed with panache by the cast including English actress Dawn Addams (a replacement for the originally cast Sylvia Lopez, who sadly succumbed to leukemia), Henri Vidal (who succumbed to heart attack the year after the film’s release, aged just forty - was this film cursed?), a scene-stealing Noël Roquevert and a young Serge Gainsbourg, who later became Bardot’s lover and penned many of her finest pop songs, but collectively illustrate the difference a strong guiding hand would have made. In the hands of someone like Alfred Hitchcock or François Truffaut, the plot might have served as a psychological exploration of a troubled marriage. Boisrond delivers a film that is polished but aimless, witty rather than funny, but paced far too leisurely even though the mystery is suitably compelling. Brief nudity from Dawn Addams and a daring (for its day) subplot involving a gay nightclub serve to illustrate how provocative French cinema was at the time when compared to staid Hollywood, but on the whole this is fairly insubstantial and strictly for Brigitte Bardot fans. Right from the opening scene she pops off the screen, tres chic, a vision of loveliness.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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