3 December 2017



'The carrots are cooked...'

Do you guys remember THE FAST SHOW, the cleverest and funniest sketch show ever to come out of the UK or, indeed, out of anywhere, really? Remember the sketches featuring Ralph, the closet homosexual English Lord of the Manor, and his humble gardener Ted, who was often mortified at Ralph's ham-fisted attempts to bring him into his, Ralph's world?

I still laugh at the one in which the hopelessly out-of-touch Ralph thoughtlessly asks Ted: 'Do you like French cinema at all, Ted?' To which Ted replies with his Old Faithful of a response, much used: 'I wouldn't know about that now, Sir...'

Well, I myself was enjoying a nice bit of French cinema at the weekend, namely MANINA, THE LIGHTHOUSE-KEEPER'S DAUGHTER, otherwise known as MANINA, LA FILLE SANS VOILES or MANINA, THE GIRL IN THE BIKINI.

I don't know what the word 'voiles' means in English but I'm guessing that the title as a whole means, MANINA, THE GIRL WITHOUT CLOTHING/COVERINGS, because the film devotes a lot of time showing the then-eighteen-year-old Ms. Bardot prancing about a lovely sunny island in a bikini, a new-fangled garment that had only been shown in one or two films prior to this one.

This film, I think though, was the first one to make a feature of it, to the point that the word 'bikini' appears in some versions of the title. Sell more copies of the film that way anyway, surely...! THE LIGHTHOUSE-KEEPER'S DAUGHTER could sound like a dreary arthouse film to some wary folks, but THE GIRL IN THE BIKINI promises tantalising glimpses of flesh and an altogether different, livelier vibe, if you see what I mean.

The plot probably pales into insignifance next to the shots of La Bardot, the original 'sex kitten,' in her titular bikini, but I suppose that we should make passing reference to it anyway, haha. There's this French student in his twenties, see, called Gerard Morere, and he gets a totally mad idea into his head that he won't rest until he's seen transmuted into action.

During a college lecture, he hears about a stash of treasure lost at sea by a fellow called Troilus (no sign here of Cressida!) after the Peloponnesian War a long, long time ago. Now, Gerard is convinced he knows where this treasure is to be found because, five years ago, he himself found a big old pottery jug while diving in Corsica near the exact spot the college professor is yammering on about. In the pottery jugs are meant to be the gold coins that comprise Troilus's treasure.

Gerard, a good talker, cons his fellow students out of money to finance getting him back to the spot where he's convinced the treasure will be his for the taking. At Tangiers, he convinces a world-weary cigarette smuggler called Eric, who has his own boat, to take him back to the island from where he made those earlier dives five years ago.

Eric is as excited as Gerard at the thought of all those gold coins lying at the bottom of the ocean. Men and their treasure! You'd never see a woman downing tools and going off half-cocked on a wild-goose-chase to find a cache of treasure that some madman claims is sitting in a cave somewhere, or buried under a goddamned 'Big W' or something.

She'd know better, that's why, and anyway, she'd probably have the kids to defrost and the refrigerator to pick up from school and take to tap class via the dentist, the optician, the vet and the psychologist. (Why won't little Timmy or Tammy ever SAY anything??? Dare I suggest
that you might conceivably be better off that way, Missus...?)

Anyway, when they reach the island, Gerard meets and falls instantly in lust with Bardot's Manina, who's grown up a good bit since they last met five years ago. She falls for Gerard too, especially when he woos her with talk of all the wonderful things they're going to do together when he finds his precious treasure. It's not really fair to put ideas like this into Manina's head but, what the hell, she's a big girl now...

The camera already loves Bardot's fabulous long hair, her big toothy smile and her lissom, sun-kissed limbs. I can tell you categorically that her miniscule bikini stays firmly in place throughout the film and you don't get so much as a glimpse of bare booby, but the bikini is so teensy-weensy that you already get to ogle at quite a bit of sun-warmed flesh free, gratis and for nothing. Stop your complaining now...!

The way that Eric the cigarette-smuggler and his two sailors look at Manina in her barely-there bikini, as if they want to eat her up, makes you think that a brutal gang-rape is, in fact, imminent. Eric, in particular, has got the obvious hots for her.

How jealous will Eric be when he finds out that Gerard has not only beaten him to the prize (of Manina, that is, a far rarer treasure than Troilus's mouldy old coins!) but he's actually visiting his prize on the island every night when he thinks his fellow sailors are alseep...?

I can't understand how Manina's parents- her old mother, in particular, dresses in black from head to foot and even wears her black headscarf indoors- allow their beautiful daughter to roam the island half-naked when there are lascivious, horny males nearby, ready to pounce. They'd be better off locking her in her room before packing her off to the nearest nunnery. A girl like that? She's gonna be nothing but trouble to her old Ma and Pa, you mark my words...

There's a lot of singing in the film, by the way, although, don't be scared now, it's not a musical. Bardot sings one or two lilting melodies herself but I'm convinced that it's the singing voice of a much older woman that comes out of her mouth. 

I love the character of Franchucha (did you know that she has the eyes of a cat...?), the nightclub singer who looks like she's seen a fair bit of life and been messed around by a fair few men, and I love her lively, vibrant song that has the lads trying to rush the stage. I actually prefer Franchucha's yodelling to Manina's mopey musical stylings...!

So, does Gerard get the treasure and whisk Manina off the island to greater and more glamorous things? Or does it all go tits-up, as these things often do? Don't forget, he's already pissed Eric off big-time by taking Manina off him, as Eric would undoubtedly see it. A woman like that can cause quite a rift to form between the men who jointly desire her. Never underestimate her ability to come between them...

I would have ended the film, personally, with that terribly exciting, climactic scene at sea about five minutes from the end. The director obviously didn't share my views, lol. Directors rarely do. Their loss...! Anyway, MANINA, with whichever title you prefer to go with, is available to buy now in a gorgeous Blu-Ray edition courtesy of EUREKA ENTERTAINMENT.

It comes complete with some fantastic extra features, including an entirely free film, the director Willy Rozier's little-seen noir-melodrama, 56 RUE PIGALLE, which I can't wait to watch myself. MANINA is, of course, important from a cultural and fashion point of view as well, being one of the first films to popularise the female bikini. Yes, a deeply significant film indeed in this respect... You naughty pervs, you're already watching it, aren't you...?


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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