An excellent star vehicle for Brigitte Bardot - it was meant to show the world that she could act, as if that matters, but it's brilliantly constructed around her. She plays a Bardot type - a free spirit who loves a good time and hates working, who managed to get permission from her parents to move to Paris via a suicide attempt (apparently the real life Bardot threatened to kill herself when she wanted to marry Roger Vadim). She has a good girl sister whose dull but handsome musician boyfriend (Sami Frey, good), she seduces in part my rolling around naked underneath a sheet pouting. When he caves - I mean, why wouldn't you - their relationship suffers because she refuses to be tied down. They break up, she becomes a prostitute while he becomes famous, and she realises she made a mistake of letting him go.
This is a well directed film - beautifully shot, with some excellent actors and photography. I enjoyed the French trial scenes, in part because of the depth of field and all the extras (it's a super packed room) but also because their legal system is different (the judge gets in the ring more and asks questions).
The script is less good - the story, rather. There are plenty of good scenes but it hits the same note over and over again - to wit, the movie is always having male character go "Bardot is a whore/tramp not capable of love" and we see that it's not true, i.e. she is a party girl, but she does love Frey. After a while you start to go "alright, already" (especially as the film clocks in at two hours).
Another problem is the whole movie is in flashback from the trial and there is not much development or mystery - either Bardot killed Frey in cold blood or it was a crime of passion, and we never see any reason why she'd kill him in cold blood so there's no mystery. In The Letter there was present day progression because of the blackmail aspect - Bette Davis told one story, it was complicated by the existence of a letter, her lawyer basically fell in love with her, her husband found out this new information... there were things playing out before our eyes. Here, everything has already happened. (I wish they'd used Bardot's lawyer more - maybe he could have fallen in love with her or something.)
But I did enjoy it. Bardot was tremendous - sexy, charismatic, believable as a spoilt sexpot and enraged woman. Her final suicide scene was very moving.
(The story of the making of this movie is fascinating - Clouzot bullied his stars, Bardot had an affair with Frey which resulted in her husband having a nervous breakdown, Frey and her husband having a brawl, and then later Bardot herself trying to kill herself... I wonder how much everyone's behaviour was influenced by the movie? No wonder Bardot was such a massive star - every movie she made there was an excellent chance of drama off screen.)