Tag Archives: Barbarella

Your mission: Find Duran Duran

More puzzling than why Jane Fonda installed floor-to-ceiling shag carpet in her spacecraft, is why it has taken me all these years to watch Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy (1968). As the second-highest-grossing film in the UK that year, it isn’t surprising that a few young men from Birmingham would come across it and choose to name their band after a character. From the science fiction storyline to, well, Jane Fonda, it is the sort of film that captures the imagination of young men. Much like Duran Duran’s own videos, the film is a product of its time but remains a, sometimes, revolutionary text. 

Equal parts Flash Gordon and Austin Powers, Barbarella finds herself trying to save the universe from the evil Durand Durand. There is a blind angel, the blonde adonis John Phillip Law, some evil dolls that try to eat Barbarella, an attack of parakeets, a bi-sexual princess and a lot of other ridiculousness along the way. As far as storylines go, it unfolds like the comic strip it originated from. The scenes look individually brilliant with a retro-futurist style the screams 1968 but it is far from gripping as a story.

While most will want to dismiss the film as soft-core sexist fluff, Barbarella has proven to be an iconic and influential character, most recently being reprised by Ariana Grande in her “Break Free” video and celebrated by Clutch with “In Walks Barbarella” . The kitsch and camp of the film overshadow how in-control of her sexuality Barbarella is throughout the film; ultimately undermining patriarchal attitudes and reflecting the sexual revolution of the late 1960s. Nobody exerts any power over Barbarella’s choices and she possesses the same sexual freedom of James Bond, moving from bed to bed without a second-thought. 

Nobody, not even Durand Durand with his excessive-pleasure machine, can tame Barbarella and her innocence ultimately is what saves her from the Matmos, some sort of evil energy substance. That innocence is not tied to chasteness, but to peace and love and the search for a utopia that we know we will never find. Barbarella’s charm lies in how it celebrates and ridicules such thinking simultaneously. It’s all a bit daft and the film embraces that fully. Fonda may have been cast by her husband for other reasons but she magnificently threads the needle as an actor throughout.

Which brings us to Duran Duran. From “Girls On Film” to “Electric Barbarella”, many of the same criticisms of Barbarella apply to their work but they can be dismissed for the same reasons. If patriarchy is rooted in power, it is hard to see how the band has exerted that power over women in their music and short-films. In the subversive “Girls On Film”, the video unfolds with vignettes that establish power ultimately resides with the women and the band are kept at a distance, unable to participate. When they are allowed into the fray with “Rio”, they all make fools of themselves chasing their idea of female beauty. 

The most troubling video is likely “Electric Barbarella” with the boys purchasing a sexbot for their flat. Why Nick, Simon, and Warren are sharing a flat is never addressed but I know record sales were declining at the time. Director Ellen von Unwerth brings her iconic photography to life in the video and, admittedly, her visuals threaten to overshadow the underlying message of the song. As much as the men wish to control their electric Barbarella, they are destined to fail in every regard. Myka Dunkel shrewdly exaggerates the ridiculousness of it all with her acting; something I missed the first few times I saw it upon release. Much like Barbarella, the video is a parody that mocks social conventions of the time without becoming too cynical. And it looks amazing doing so. 

Did Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy give Duran Duran more than a cool name for their band? Definitely. When you watch the film, notice how many times Fonda says “planet earth” for example and how many Duran Duran songs can fit into a science-fiction context. With the band’s recent NASA show, this is the perfect time to watch Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy and ponder the ultimate question: is there anybody out there? 

There is Definitely Something You Should Know! DD on BBC Four

I love it when there’s news!

As I checked my email this morning, there were a couple of Google Alerts.  In full disclosure, I typically ignore them. More often than not, the alert is about someone with the last name of Duran, which has gotten really old at this point. This morning though, that was to be the case, as I uncharacteristically stopped scrolling and opened the alert.

My Duranie radar must still be working, because the alert announced that Duran Duran will be taking over BBC Four on June 29th!

At 9pm (GMT), viewers will see Duran Duran: There Is Something You Should Know. According to the press release on duranduran.com, “Back2back Productions has been granted exclusive access to the legendary group. Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor and Roger Taylor open up about their extraordinary career, talking more candidly than ever before about the highs and lows they have endured together over the years.”

Yeah, I wouldn’t mind seeing a brand new interview. I miss those guys.

Then at 10pm (also GMT), the band talks about their early inspirations as they look back together over TV programs, music and films that they grew up with from the 60s, 70s and 80s in a show titled, Duran Duran: A Night In.  Also from the press release, John Taylor notes, “Without the BBC, there would be no Duran Duran. Forty years ago this October, the BBC first aired ‘Barbarella’. It was while watching that late-night screening of the Jane Fonda sci-fi epic that members of a burgeoning Birmingham post-punk band decided the name of one of the films characters – Durand Durand – would make for a cool and unusual band name.”

I think this show would be very interesting, particularly since I’m from the US. I’d love to see it!

But wait!

Most fans know that the BBC is in the UK. While there have been a few requests to stream the shows so that fans may watch worldwide, if you’re not in the UK, you’re pretty much out of luck for this one, at least for now. <cue tears>

Invariably, these types of programs eventually make their way onto YouTube or are passed from fan-to-fan, and I think we can probably expect the same for this one in due time. For now, as it should be…no matter how painful it might be to know I’m going to miss out, the UK fans will be able to experience the shows first. Yes, I absolutely believe they should have the opportunity to see it all first. Make no mistake, I am 100% envious knowing that I probably won’t see this material for a while, but certainly not angry or spiteful. There have been many times the US has had Duran Duran playing live shows here, with very little regard to the country from which they were born. The UK is their home, and as John mentioned – without the BBC there would be no Duran Duran.

People get so angry about the silliest things, such as this night of television. I’ve seen so many upset comments this morning!  Sure, I’d love to see these television shows. I love this kind of thing and I have no doubt that Amanda and I would have tried to watch together and we would have had many vodka tonics and laughed our way through it because these guys crack us up every single time.  Experience tells me though, that I probably will still have the chance to see these shows at some point, just not on June 29th. Somehow, I suspect I’ll likely survive the famine. Maybe.

I just don’t think I am exactly in the position to be complaining here. Duran Duran didn’t get their start here in the US. They certainly weren’t born here in America, and they didn’t cut their teeth in some dank and dark nightclub in an alley in Los Angeles or New York. It wasn’t American TV that embraced them first, like it or not.  I can’t be angry about a TV show or two being shown on the BBC, that is for sure.

Their 40th anniversary celebration isn’t over yet. It’s just begun! It is likely that we can look forward to other special events opportunities in the months to come.

However, if you want to get a sneak peek at the trailer, take a gander at the link below! I’ve watched it about 50 times now, so that should tell you just how badly I wish I could see the show with my UK friends. So sure, take my envy and laugh your way through to June 29th. If anybody figures out a way to watch the show, don’t forget to whisper it to your good friends Rhonda and Amanda!  We won’t tell!!

Duran Duran Take Over the BBC – Trailer!

-R