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April 05, 2005

Fonda vs. Vadim

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

A Pope's death ... Battles over Social Security... War in the Mideast ... Heavy days.

But what this particular Blogger of Substance has been most deeply concerned about is Jane Fonda's tales about life with Roger Vadim. More specifically: did Vadim really force Fonda to organize and take part in group sex sessions or didn't he? And, in either case, why wasn't I invited?

A short pause for the benefit of those whose grasp on '60s movie history is uncertain. Roger Vadim was a French filmmaker notorious for his sexy movies, which included the South-of-France romp "And God Created Woman", and a ski-chalet-set, modern-dress version of "Dangerous Liaisons." But Vadim was equally famous for his magic way with starlets and other beautiful women. In the 1950s, Vadim discovered Brigitte Bardot -- which means that he was responsible for creating and establishing a type that has been with us ever since, namely the tousled-hair, trampy blonde sex kitten. In the '60s, Vadim had an affair with and gave a boost to the career of another legendary beauty, Catherine Deneuve. Vadim was, in other words, a world-famous seducer and pop-era Svengali.

First there was Brigitte ...

In the middle-'60s Jane Fonda was in a rebelling-against-Hollywood mood and relocated to Paris. There she met Vadim. They soon moved in together, and Vadim cast Fonda in four movies, the most famous being the 1969 sci-fi spoof "Barbarella." In the early '70s, Fonda left Vadim as well as that period of her own life behind and became an Oscar-winning Very Serious Person -- actress, protestor, and feminist role-model.

Vadim for his part continued seducing women and making arty softcore movies, but the larger world soon passed him by. As the sexual revolution percolated through to middle America, Vadim and his movies began to look as quaint as an early issue of Playboy magazine. When he made his final theatrical film, a 1988 semi-remake of "And God Created Woman" starring Rebecca de Mornay, it was laughed-at in the press and did virtually no business.

I liked the film myself. Silly and out-of-date though it was, it still had some rare virtues. Vadim had a wonderfully suave way of appreciating women's many qualities -- he was like an experienced and loving horseman with an ability see a horse for what it really is. And De Mornay really puts it out there: with Vadim's encouragement and direction, she's sexy, she's dynamic, she's touching, she's scary. She's one all-American creature, that's for sure. "C'est come ca," you can imagine Vadim saying with a shrug and a smile. Sadly, the film's commercial failure seemed to kill De Mornay's brief bid to be a mainstream star.

The current Fonda/Vadim tale is a little more complicated than most tacky newsbytes are. What's certain is that Fonda has an autobiography going on sale any minute now; that the British press has run items about forced group sex that are said to be based on an advance copy of the book; and that Fonda's people have denied that her book claims any such thing.

Much remains delightfully unresolved, in other words. A key question, it seems to me: Is there -- and will there ever be -- any real way to know the truth about the life Fonda lived with Vadim? Vadim himself can't respond to Fonda's account; he died in 2000. But perhaps people who knew Fonda and Vadim back in the swinging-psychedelic years will now come forward with their versions of those years. We can hope.

Then there was Catherine ...

With the intentipn of moving this important conversation forward -- well, OK, with the intention of prolonging the absurd naughtiness -- I've pulled together some relevant text passages. First, a collage of recent passages from the press about Fonda's book:

The Mirror’s report suggests Vadim forced Fonda to phone escort companies and pick up girls in bars so they could take part in his "cruel and misogynistic" sex sessions ...

The book, "My Life So Far," is to be published next month by Random House. Leaked excerpts describe Vadim bullying Fonda into inviting other women into bed, as well as other lurid situations created by Vadim, the Daily Mail reported Wednesday ...

"It seems shocking that I did that but I convinced myself that it was fine even though it was killing my heart," says Fonda, 67 ...

The French director suggested she chat them up using techniques gleaned from her Oscar-winning performance as a prostitute in the 1971 movie "Klute."

She says she agreed to the sexual encounters because Vadim played on her insecurities, making her feel "less than perfect" and obliged to fulfill his sexual fantasies.

"For me with Roger Vadim, that meant bringing other women into our bed," she writes in the book.

Miss Fonda describes how Vadim - who directed her in the 1968 scifi sexual spoof "Barbarella" -- once ordered a red-haired prostitute from the Madame Claude escort agency in France.

In a scene which could have come from one of his sexually charged movies, she tells how the woman joined the couple for a threesome. Miss Fonda married
Vadim, the father of her daughter Vanessa, in 1967. She describes her ex-husband, who died in 2000, as "cruel and misogynistic" and claims he forced her into other forms of group sex ...

Miss Fonda blames her relationship-with Vadim for the eating disorders that plagued her for much of her life.

"I ceased eating except for crusts from his bread and rinds from his camembert," she says.

Those eager for more might want to run a Google News search on +Fonda +Vadim and settle in for a spicey read.

What to make of Fonda's account? The first thing to be kept in mind, it seems to me, is that she's an actress. (I once wrote a posting about what actors are like.) Actors generally don't know who they really are. They find a center only when they pour themselves into the container of a "character"; they become most fully who they are when they turn themselves into someone else. Actors are often charming and gifted creatures, but they'll drive you crazy too. An actress might say one thing at 8 a.m. and then say something completely contradictory at 4 pm. She wouldn't be bothered by this because in both cases she's been true to her feelings of the moment -- and because being "true to the moment," whatever it happens to be, is what being an actor is all about. Men in romantic relationships with actresses often find these women a terrific turn-on -- the passion! The excitement! The responsiveness! Yet the men often spend a lot of time scratching their heads in bewilderment too, wondering if anyone's truly home.

Even for an actress, though, Fonda has morphed through an amazing number of very-defined incarnations, hasn't she? Driven sex-bunny starlet ... Deep-voiced Oscar winner ... Feminist spokeswoman ... Anti-war protestor ... Exercise guru ... Rich man's trophy-wife ... Not being a big fan of hers, I've probably left out a few. Perhaps the Jane Fonda iteration we're dealing with these days is "grande dame who's now being frank -- and frankly regretful -- about parts of her past." Who knows?

But, in any case, given the general profile of actors, I think it's possible both 1) that Fonda took part happily in lots of sexual naughtiness while with Vadim, and 2) that she's also telling the truth about how it seems to her today. Perhaps she was being true to the frisky moment back then, and perhaps she's also being true to her noble-tragedy moment now.

When Jane and Roger were happy collaborators

While I wait for associates of the jolly couple to step forward and clear these matters up, I want to help Vadim make his case. I pulled from my bookshelf a memoir he published, the 1986 "Bardot, Deneuve, Fonda." (You can buy a used copy of the book for nineteen cents here.) I read the book when it came out and loved it. For all I know, Vadim was the most evil man on the planet. But as a storyteller, he was grownup, elegant, amusing in that weary-rueful-sexy Euro way, and generous. What, in any case, did Vadim have to say about Fonda?

Some excerpts.

In the first, Vadim describes how Fonda struck him the first time he laid eyes on her. They were attending a dinner-dance at Maxim's, a Parisian restaurant. Fonda was 18; Vadim was 10 years older:

She was wearing a very proper dress with almost no decolletage. It was pulled tight at the waist and reached down to her calves. Her hairstyle, also very proper, reminded me of the young well-brought-up girls one sees in American films. The contrast between her and the super sophisticated Parisian women was very refreshing ...

A few years later Vadim meets with Fonda to discuss a film. They speak French, which Fonda was still learning:

She had no difficulty expressing herself. It's a pity that her charming accent, grammatical errors and mistakes in using words can't be translated into English. Jane's English is precise and her delivery rapid despite hesitations and intentional pauses. It gives the impression of efficiency and sometimes a certain dryness. In French she speaks in a much more colorful way and her voice is deep and nuanced. The lack of confidence that comes from seeing a word in a foreign language gives her a gentleness which is part of her character, but which, for reasons that I've never understood, she tries hard to hide.

Like I say: a sophisticated appreciator of a woman's qualities. Any hunches about how most American women would react to being savored by Roger Vadim? Would they enjoy having their natures seen so clearly? Would they feel ... insulted? Patronized? Would they wind up in bed with him? How about if there were the chance of starring in a movie? Just asking.

20 minutes after Fonda leaves, the phone rings, and Vadim's associate Olga answers. It's Fonda:

She told Olga that the evening she had spent was the best since arriving in Paris.

When Olga put down the phone, she smiled. "You've seduced her."

It was actually Jane who had seduced me, and, in spite of Olga's belief, I didn't dare hope that the attraction was mutual.

Ah, the charming and winning modesty of the seasoned roue.

Vadim tells the tale of his and Fonda's first sexual get-together this way. He's in a bar talking with a colleague and it's raining outside:

Suddenly the door opened and Jane came in. Her hair ... was dripping with rain. She was shooting a love scene and had put on a raincoat over her nightgown to cross the courtyard. She had been running, and her chest was heaving as she tried to catch her breath. She looked very beautiful arriving out of the night, breathless, dripping wet, her eyes shining, and suddenly embarrassed to find herself standing in front of me ...

That instant I knew I was in love.

Two hours later I took her back to her hotel .. and went up to her room with her. ... There was a large bed, visible beams on the ceiling, and a sofa on which we collapsed, as soon as she took off her raincoat.

We kissed tdnderly and passionately with the impatience of two lovers meeting after a long separation. I had half-undressed her and we were about to make love on the sofa when she suddenly broke away and ran to the bathroom. She came out a minute later, completely naked, and got into bed. I underessed and joined her. But something happened and I couldn't make love to her.

I have read that too much passion can make a man in love impotent, and so I didn't feel discouraged. An hour later, however, I had to face the facts: I was blocked, humiliated and reduced to total impotence.

After the sudden emotional shock in the stuidio bar and the passionate flirtation on the sofa, I felt that Jane's disappearance into the bathroom and the prosaic way she waited for me naked in bed was somewhat aggressive. The scene suddenly became banal. It was if she had said to me, "You want to make love? Go ahead."

And that was exactly what was going on in her head, Jane told me later. She felt violently attracted to me and wanted to get rid of her obsession by making love. She refused to fall in love, and felt that once the ritual was over, she would be free.

Vadim writes that his impotence "became a recurring nightmare. Besides feeling ridiculous, I felt anxious. Jane was now convinced that I wasn't physically attracted to her." He remained impotent with Fonda for three weeks.

Incidentally, he was still officially with Catherine Deneuve at this point. But not to worry: Deneuve's "affair with Johnny Hallyday had preceded my meeting with Jane." Still, Vadim confesses that he felt "ashamed" anyway.

A final passage about what he saw in Fonda:

The qualities that attracted me to Jane Fonda were not those everyone recognizes in her today -- political courage, leadership, commitment to feminist causes, incredible success in films and business, or the image of an intellectual who sacrifices neither her home for her ideas nor her ideas for her home. It was the vulnerability hiding behind the appearance of strength and self-confidence, her honest search for her true identity and, of course, her face, her body and the fact that we were perfectly compatible physically.

Sexual pleasure, as everyone knows, depends as much on the mind as it does on the erogenous zones-- and even more on imagination and the ability to improvise on techniques of lovemaking. In this, Jane was a total woman. Even to her natural gifts she added a sort fo innoccence and naivete which combined charm with pleasure ... In those days, she laughed much more easily than she does now.

I don't know about anyone else, but when a man who has directed and slept with a number of the century's most beautiful and desirable women writes about sex, I certainly pay attention. I'm nothing if not eager to learn from the masters.

FWIW, a few people I know who were friendly with Vadim have told me that he was a lovely guy with a big soul. They also told me that he was a first-class cook. Mostly this was because he enjoyed eating and preparing classy food. But it was also -- single guys eager to connect with women take note! -- because he'd learned that delicious food can be an effective seduction aid. There are apparently few ways as likely to make a woman feel happy, cared-for, and receptive as feeding her well with exquisite food that you've prepared yourself.

In any case, in celebration of this minor news-bubble, The Wife and I watched one of Vadim and Fonda's collaborations, "The Game is Over" ("La Curee"). We had no idea what to expect. Would it be a silly, camp (but still sexy) trifle like "And God Created Woman"? A silly, camp (but still sexy) spoof, like "Barbarella"?

In fact, we enjoyed it a lot. It struck me as by far the most substantial of the Vadim movies that I've seen -- something on the level of his very touching and interesting memoir. Fonda plays the young American wife of a rich middle-aged Parisian businessman. Hubby spends mucho time on the job, and is out of town for long stretches too. Fonda's stepson -- hubby's son by an earlier marriage -- is more or less Fonda's age (uh-oh!) and is almost as pretty as she. The two youngsters keep each other company. They horse around. Hubby refers to the two of them as "les enfants" (ie., "kids"), as in "Alright, kids, time for dinner."

The movie's first half-hour is larky, full of aimless horseplay and wild flower-power design -- wallpaper, pants, haircuts. You watch this stretch thinking: Who are these people? How are they related? And are they messing around sexually yet? The passage feels like preparation for a swinging-'60s romp.

But the film turns out to have much more sting and bite than that. Perhaps the source material -- a Zola novel I haven't read -- helps. Despite the psychedelia indoors, outdoors Paris is still Paris -- charming, yes, but also chilly, old, gray-purple, and somber. Despite the lifted-out-of-time feeling of the sexy romping, Dad/Hubby's business is struggling ... Son is getting to be of a marriageable age ... Where in the midst of this is there finally room for Fonda?

The film has some of the harshness and bluntness -- that combo of voluptuousness and coldness, of finesse and brute force -- that a film like the Stephen Frears/Christopher Hampton version of "Dangerous Liaisons" has. Those French, they sure do love their tales about how true feeling fares in the face of money, position, and status, don't they?

Fonda as Vadim presents her is a fabulous creation. You can understand the attraction: this American girl is alluring -- ravishing, healthy, dynamic, and sexy. But she's also off-putting: over-bold, literal-minded, and klunky. Her naivete and her belief in herself (and her belief in true love) are seen as sweet yet doomed, possibly even fatal. What Vadim saw in Fonda as he described it in his memoir is exactly how the Fonda character comes across in the movie. You understand being awed and aroused by her; you understand how a man of experience might be made impotent by her too.

So I'm taking a vote: which account of Fonda and Vadim's life together sounds more likely? Fonda's, wherein Vadim-the-beast coerces her into humiliating herself against her better judgment? Or Vadim's, in which Fonda the charmingly-messed-up, overwhelmingly ambitious American girl is eager to learn about and share pleasure?

Me, I'm happy assuming that Vadim's modest-boastful worldliness was as much of an act as Fonda's various personae seem to be. On the other hand, I'm 'way more won over by Vadim's seeming frankness -- and by the way he's able to admit that life is complicated -- than I am by the tidy, sum-it-all-up package Fonda is apparently selling. Vadim seems to be willing to let us take him for what we will. Fonda seems determined to control our perceptions. But who knows? Perhaps Fonda's version is closer to the truth.

You can eyeball stills from Jane's more risque scenes in "The Game is Over" here.



UPDATE: Thanks to Mike Hill of the ever-delightful (and ever-feisty) Sluggo Needs a Nap. Mike, who has had far more experience with actors and actresses than I have, adds this to my descriptions of them:

I'm sympathetic to your analysis of the character of actors as probably three quarters of the women I've been involved with in my life have been actresses. The mercurial self-involvement of the species may be a cliche, but one borne out by years of head explodement. As is the cruel self regard of actors. There are a lot of things I'd prefer to forget.

If you believe that actors self-select themselves in their career choice to compensate their missing 'centers', though, I'm not so sure that's the whole story. Male actors self-select for two reasons; to get girls and because real life offers far less attention than they require. The reasons women go into it are mainly the attention thing, but also a desire for power and control with a little more glamour than nursing school. No one ever went into the business without believing they would be a star.

But as pink, throbbing egos and fragile self-images are charactaristic of actors, the common charactaristic of good actors is an almost inexplicable ability to make that ego disappear and the self-image irrelevant while performing. Filling that "container' with character makes you feel good, remarkably good. But unless you get out of the way it never gets over the footlights. And you'll never get the girls.

posted by Michael at April 5, 2005


According to some excerpts I've seen, Hanoi Jane makes a whole passel of shocking revelations in her upcoming book, by no means all of them involving Vadim. Among other things, she claims that bulimia-induced vomiting made her, uh, "feel good."

Posted by: Peter on April 5, 2005 03:18 PM

Vadim. IIRC, John Phillips in his autobiography recounted a fivesome with John & Michele, Roger & Jane, and Warren Beatty. Michele denied it, saying "Didn't happen. Ask Jane." I believe John.

In whatever weird fantasy world such things are thinkable, I have never been that attracted to Vadim's three. Not crazy about blondes;the body type is somewhere between petite/thin and voluptuous; and the personalities are too strong...way way too much woman for me. Deneuve's personality most attractive...just watched "Belle du Jour" again from start to finish I think Sunday night. It is not that I like weak passive mousy women...those three are just too strong.

Vadim was an amazing man.

Posted by: bob mcmanus on April 5, 2005 04:30 PM

"Hanoi Jane"... Yup, she and Grace Paley, who lived across the street while I was growing up, make good company. Grace, however, was a doll, no matter what her politics.
And I just received word that the Jefferson Market Garden, which succeeded the razed Women's House of Detention, where Grace and her pals hung out, is celebrating its 30th anniversary on 26 April.

Posted by: winifer skattebol on April 5, 2005 10:29 PM

"He was like an experienced and loving horseman with an ability see a horse for what it really is."

..."true to the frisky moment...

"They horse around." ..."full of aimless horseplay..."

Women may often be affectionately referred to as a "filly" here in the Lone Star State, but do I detect something a little more...Freudian? *grin*

A question, Michael: how do you think John Derek's paramounts and films compare to Vadim's?

Bob, you cut me to the quick, m'boy. Strange, but I have always felt the same about blonde men, so go figure.

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on April 5, 2005 10:58 PM

I've always thought she was the ultimate flake. Your post makes me wonder if all actors are kind of flaky.

Posted by: lindsey on April 6, 2005 01:35 AM

Given that she liked to fellate Communist murderers, I doubt that group sex was a big deal.

Posted by: cynic on April 6, 2005 05:17 AM

Who was the communist murderer?

Posted by: lindsey on April 6, 2005 07:28 AM

Good grief - it's contagious! ParaMOUNT? The egg's on me this time. Paramours, if you please.

A horse is a horse, unless of course, the nag is trying to be too erudite.

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on April 6, 2005 12:10 PM

I'm sympathetic to your analysis of the character of actors as probably three quarters of the women I've been involved with in my life have been actresses. The mercurial self-involvement of the species may be a cliche, but one borne out by years of head explodement. As is the cruel self regard of actors. There are a lot of things I'd prefer to forget.

If you believe that actors self-select themselves in their career choice to compensate their missing 'centers', though, I'm not so sure that's the whole story. Male actors self-select for two reasons; to get girls and because real life offers far less attention than they require. The reasons women go into it are mainly the attention thing, but also a desire for power and control with a little more glamour than nursing school. No one ever went into the business without believing they would be a star.

But as pink, throbbing egos and fragile self-images are charactaristic of actors, the common charactaristic of good actors is an almost inexplicable ability to make that ego disappear and the self-image irrelevant while performing. Filling that "container' with character makes you feel good, remarkably good. But unless you get out of the way it never gets over the footlights. And you'll never get the girls.

Posted by: Sluggo on April 6, 2005 12:59 PM

Peter -- The pleasures of bulimia ... Yuk. Hard to imagine what they might be. Control, being strict with yourself, suffering for the sake of a higher good? Something like that? Still ... yuk.

Bob -- Vadim seems to have been attracted to the "way too much woman" type, doesn't he? I found it rather winning in his book the way he 'fesses up to being not-man-enough over and over again. Still you find yourself thinking, Wow, this dude can really handle 'em, up to a point anyway. Reminds me of a story I once heard about a legendary Hollywood animal trainer. He could wrangle lions, tigers, bears, and get them to perform for the camera. Apparently not very attractive himself, but he was famous for 1) his small staff of very beautiful young woman assistants, and 2) his success rate with very classy gals. General feeling was: hey, if he can handle lions and tigers, no wonder he does well with women.

Pattie -- "Women may often be affectionately referred to as a "filly" here in the Lone Star State, but do I detect something a little more...Freudian?" I think you're probably on to something! John Derek's another interesting seducer-starmaker-director, you're right. An interesting comparison. Do such guys differ mostly in style? Vadim: very worldly, cynical, charming, Euro? Derek: more earnest, very West Coast? (Come to think of it, wasn't John Derek a good horseman? I could be wrong, but I think he introduced Bo to horses.) I wonder what it is these guys have. An ability to relate -- appreciatively and unself-consciously -- to the "animal" in a woman? Any hunches? Have you ever encountered such a guy? I wonder what an in-person meeting with one of these guys is like for a woman.

Lindsey -- Sluggo's observations about actresses strike me as super-apt. Funny creatures. I like having actor-friends -- they can bring a lot of glamor and fizz into life, and god knows they know how to have a good party. But managing and wrangling them is a very peculiar art. In many ways, they just aren't real people. They dematerialize and then rematerialize on a regular basis. So they can't be counted on in the way most non-actors think of being able to count on friends. And talk about self-centered ... But at the same time there's (sometimes) no one more generous, sweet, or touching than an actor. Still, it's funny that the public pays as much attention to them as we do, given what non-people they generallyi are. My lowest-down theory about actors and how they function for the rest of us is that it has to do with projection. You know how most of us dislike being projected on? I get very indignant and snippy when people project "uptight" on me just because I'm a vanilla mid-American. In my mind, they're obviously projecting a silly fantasy of theirs rather than dealing with the "real me." My theory is that actors -- unlike most of us -- adore being projected on. Having no one at home deep down inside, the projections that get laid on them give them an identity (at least for a moment or two). They invite our projections; they encourage our projections. And then they work with that. Katharine Hepburn seemed "intelligent" to many people -- so the whole Katharine Hepburn thing got started. (In fact she was as dizzy as any other actor.) In a way, that's the whole origin of drama -- performers onstage accepting (or eliciting) our projections and then enacting them very fully for our sake. (And perhaps thereby becoming stars, of course.) It's part of what's entrancing and heady about having an affair with a performer, their willingness to take what you see in them and then run with it. It can seem, for 48 hours or two weeks, like you've got everything you ever wanted in a woman. But then the magic goes, and she's rematerialized elsewhere playing some different role for someone else ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 7, 2005 11:05 AM

I've long suspected that most bulimics have a certain masochistic streak, that they're punishing themselves for being (at least in their minds) "bad people." No idea whether that was the case with Jane Fonda.
It's also been claimed that some young women, especially in college soroities, actually engage in bulimia contests and parties. I suppose it could be true, but it sounds awfully urban-legendish.

Posted by: Peter on April 7, 2005 01:33 PM

My guess is Jane, the ultimate chameleon, made herself believe it was worldly and sexy at the time, but now ALSO realizes it was being done from a place of weak self and low self-esteem, needing to please Vadim, which would naturally make it seem like no fun at all in hindsight (no pun intended). Anything done from self-loathing usually carries a bad memory. But it isn't Vadim's fault--Janie had quite a childhood, priveledged on one hand, and yet the daughter of a suicidal mother and a remote father on the other. I'm sure her weak feelings about herself pre-dated him, and would have been there even if Vadim was a doll.

I just remember a passage from Vadim's autobiography when he realized it was over with Jane: he saw her leave the ladies' room at a sixties party buttoning her skirt and straightening her hair after An Encounter that did not include Vadim. Henry Fonda's words to him rang in his ears: "No one ever dumps a Fonda." Of course, I guess Ted Turner is the exception that proves the rule! But, in the end, Jane left Roger.

I read a summary of her acting once, wild,vulnerable, reliable, raw, funny---and it said when you see her acting at its best is when you really Feel The Burn.

Posted by: annette on April 7, 2005 04:38 PM

It is interesting that Ms Fonda has hidden herself again within her memoir. She hides her intelligence, her talent, and a certain steel will behind her supposed attempts to win her father's love and to find a way to deal with men, her beauty, etc. It is interesting to note that it is sometimes very difficult for the offspring of talented or successful people to find their own way in the world. For example, if you are Frank Sinatra, Jr, or Julian Lennon, and have the misfortune of looking and sounding like your far more famous parent, you will have a hard time ever having someone take you seriously. Michael Douglas had to become a tv actor and the Oscar winning producer of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" before going on to make a name for himself as a film actor.
It is perhaps easier if the offspring and the parent are not the same gender. Then, there is less of a comparison made. And so, even though Jane Fonda writes of wishing she had been more like her brother Peter in being able to shrug off father Henry's stern judgements, the plan fact is that whatever her politics, she has often been a great actress, while her brother Peter never really found his footing as a working actor, despite his obvious talent. And though she Fonda writes about fearing that she would become "a victim," like her unfortunate mother (who committed suicide), the plain fact is that she has had a successful career, a long life, and has been able to hold her own against critics and husbands.

Posted by: alexander on April 8, 2005 09:34 PM

Having felt strong aversion to Ms.Fonda since the 70's, when she was praised to the skies by official Soviet press, my opinion of her politics only confirmed during the last decade that I've been living in America.
[somehow recently encountered delicious word "trustafarian" comes to mind, in possibly false association).

Having said that and leaving the politics aside, I think it's not entirely correct to posit the stories written by Vadim and Fonda as opposites.

If I'd be permitted to speculate a bit, don't you think there is a gap, a leap in a story of their first sexual encounter as told by Vadim?
A powerful man persues a much younger, very fresh and pretty girl, flatters her, shows her his admiration and she finally responds. He fails in bed, at the site of her naked and expectant body. [and here's a gap] - Why would you think she'd come up with idea that his mulfunction is HER fault, after all this praise and flattery? As a woman who once used to be a 20 y.o. girl, I can tell you assuredly - this thought was put in her head from the outside.

And I can see how having succeeded once in manipulating this inexperienced and ambitious girl into beleiving what was convenient to him, Vadim could easily persuade her that without the props of some xtra players she's not that attractive to him by herself. He played on her "daring" side, too - and desire to be as sophisticated as other women - whom she was made to beleive posessed the real appeal. Adding to the mix was probably her life as a spoiled kid of celebrity, with its habit of being seen as always the best in everything, false pride - and voila!

So her version isn't exactly the opposite, rather a continuation of Vadim's condescending half-truths...
For fuller picture it would be interesting to know, btw, what Brigitte and Catherine think of Vadim - if such reserved and controlled woman as Catherine will ever reveal her true thoughts...

Posted by: Tatyana on April 9, 2005 01:22 PM

I hope I haven't said this here before: Howard Stern often starts interviews with strippers and porn stars by asking them how old they were when they were molested. On a recent Inside the Actor's Studio, Ethan Hawke said he often asks fellow actors how old they were when their parents divorced. It's not a coincidence that the job of a moviestar is to make people love them, and think they could be loved in return. Conversely, porn stars humiliate themselves, or look for love by humiliating themselves.

I don't know if the Fondas divorced, but his children say he was cold, unloving father. And in the depth of her various passions, Jane seems like someone who lacked conviction and a good sense of self-worth.

Posted by: john massengale on April 9, 2005 01:56 PM

I think Tatyana is right on...and I think expert seducers are often expert manipulators, and Vadim certainly falls into the category. Yes, I believe Vadim manageng to make Jane feel "blamed" for HIS inability to function. He probably made her feel "blamed" for his need for other women in bed, too. It would not be the first time a narcissistic, charming, brutal person jerked another around for his own purposes! doesn't mean he couldn't be an interesting conversationalist, or film director, too.

Posted by: annette on April 11, 2005 10:11 AM

He may have been all that, plus charming and generous too. In his account of his impotence with Jane, for instance, he's clearly feeling bad for her sake. Or at least partly. (He's also clearly bragging about having had Jane Fonda.) And I think we may be underdoing Jane's own role in all this. Quite possible to read it as: she went to France, she took Vadim as a lover, she used him to achieve sex-kitten stardom, then she dumped him when she was finished with him. (I never heard anyone say Jane Fonda wasn't ambitious, so it's funny that in her account of her life she was nothing but putty in the hands of her men.) But probably all the above are true, no? Ambitious, vain people at play with each other ...

FWIW, I looked into Deneuve's feelings about Vadim a bit, and as far as I could tell she never said a bad word about him. ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 11, 2005 02:35 PM

Well, but if she was purely professionally ambitious, there were a lot more powerful film directors than Vadim!!

My guess is, if ambition played a role, it was more in "capturing" the same guy who had already had Brigitte and Catherine (and there was another wife, too---Annette Stroyberg, before Catherine, to whom he was never married, and after Brigitte). Along the lines of---see, I'm sexy enough to get the same guy who had Brigitte.

Posted by: annette on April 12, 2005 10:42 AM

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