Cinema: Carnival in Brio

Viva Maria! gives Brigitte Bardot one of the best roles of her career and Jeanne Moreau one of her worst. Fortunately, Moreau treats the handicap lightly, as if she were taking up tent-show theatricals just for the hell of it. Together, the two co-stars perform miracles of wit, charm and camera-wise witchery in this jaunty but slipshod farce written and directed by France's Louis Malle.

Maria! dusts off a sliver of plot about a team of carnival song-and-dance girls, both named Maria, touring the fleshpots of a mythical Central American republic in 1907. Enhancing...