“The French are funny, sex is funny, comedy is funny, and yet no French sex comedies are funny.”
-Matt Groening in his comic strip Life in Hell
Barbarella is so bad as a science fiction movie that we could really skip the rest of the review if that was the only genre in which it lives. The technology is too stupid for most pre-teens. The plot doesn’t move forward so much as stagger around loosely. The universe created for this movie is not a vision of the future or past, it is entirely about the self-idiolized sixties. If Barbarella was just a science fiction movie it probably would not deserve a star. In fact it wouldn’t deserve a mention. But it is also something harder to define, a cultural icon of that time. The innocently sexual woman who is absurdly pure travelling through an impure world without really being touched by it is kind of its own thing. Perhaps even a precursor to the manic-pixie-dream-girl trope.
It might also fall somewhere within the French Sex Comedy genre, or at least the impression we have of it that Matt Groening summed up so perfectly. But a genre should be something you know you’re in the mood for, like Thai food. Nobody ever goes to the video store thinking “I’m in the mood for a French Sex Comedy.” Nobody who isn’t either in film school or trying to become a movie critic.
Therefore, I cannot give it a star for that. I do give it just one star because, well, it is an interesting artifact.