Futures vedettes

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Futures vedettes (1955) is a relatively late film from the french auteur Marc Allégret. Allégret, best known today for his films Fanny (1932) and Zouzou (1934), co-scripted Futures vedettes with Roger Vadim from a novel by Vicki Baum. Allégret and Vadim had been writing films together for several years before beginning work on Futures vedettes. It was in pre-production of La demoiselle et son revenant (1952) that Roger Vadim met Brigitte Bardot although they would not collaborate professionally until Futures vedettes.

Futures vedettes was produced the year before Vadim’s Et Dieu… créa la femme (1956) and the myth of Brigitte Bardot was born. Bardot may not have been a sex symbol or a household name when she appeared in Futures vedettes, but the groundwork for her onscreen persona was already being orchestrated. In Futures vedettes, Bardot’s character is sensual, passionate, fierce, and often appears in various stages of undress. She is, however, still a brunette and hardly the focus of the film.

Director Marc Allégret approaches Futures vedettes with a light and sentimental touch. The passion of a schoolgirl’s first love is depicted as a right of passage; as an inevitable part of coming into womanhood. There is more than a little Pygmalion to Futures vedettes in terms of its sexual politics and power dynamics. It is men who motivate, inspire and direct the lives of women in Futures vedettes.

But as sentimental and romantic as Futures vedettes is, it remains a rather powerful depiction of an abuse of power. Opera singer and instructor Éric Walter (Jean Marais) exploits his position of authority at a conservatory to treat his emotional traumas. Clément (Yves Robert) warns Élis (Isabelle Pia) and Sophie (Bardot) not to believe anything that Éric Walter says. But Éric Walter is their teacher, their superior, and a man who knows exactly how to manipulate emotionally vulnerable people for his own sexual gains.

The plot of Futures vedettes stands in stark contrast to the tone of Allégret’s direction. The story therefore unfolds as a kind of heterosexual male fantasy. The predatory nature of Éric Walter is meant to be made palpable and even acceptable via the stylizations of Allégret. The film clearly casts Walter as a villain at the end, but a necessary one. Futures vedettes assumes that without men such as Éric Walter girls would never mature emotionally to become “real” women and artists.

Firmly entrenched in the misogyny of France in the fifties Futures vedettes may be a hard pill for today’s audiences to swallow. Still, that doesn’t mean that the film is without merit or that it should be avoided altogether. The performances of Marais and Bardot are enough to make Futures vedettes worth seeing. The cinematography of Robert Juillard is also particularly good, especially during the ballet rehearsal sequences. Futures vedettes is perhaps best seen as a prelude to the sexual revolution that Bardot was such a part of in the sixties.