BRIGITTE BARDOT Once, she was the epitome of carefree youth and beauty, as natural a sex symbol as the screen has ever seen. But now Brigitte Bardot is in a foul temper and doesn't sound much fun to be around - unless you are an animal. So deep is her unhappiness that the actress who once symbolised France says she might even emigrate to Italy. Apparently, she likes the way the Italians eat pasta and play the mandolin. 'France has lost its charm. Things have become ugly, there is no feeling any more,' Ms Bardot moaned last week at the publication of her autobiography. 'Everyone is depressed.' Indeed, a lot of people in France are fed up, what with high unemployment, a tight economy, social tension and a stumbling government. They consume record amounts of tranquilisers and their national Pessimism Index has hit record levels. But the champion grumbler is clearly the sex kitten who burst on to the screen in the 1956 film And God Created Woman and who became a fine actress before ending her cinema career in 1973. As she made clear last week, her detestation of all she finds around her today knows no bounds. 'I hate France,' she says. 'I detest it, I find it unbearable . . . the decadence, the moral and physical dirtiness, the ugliness, the lack of aesthetics, the loss of essential values, and also pornography.' As for Frenchmen, 'they are almost all gay'. A fanatical defender of animals, she denounces Arab immigrants for roasting lamb and building mosques. The far-right National Front leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, is 'a charming and intelligent man' but she dismisses other politicians with insults. Over the years, she has been 'conned, manipulated and abused; everything that happened to me was excessive'. The book alludes to self-destructive depression and a form of nymphomania in which she fell in love with her leading men from the first screen embrace. 'When you live such intense moments as I have done there is always a bill to pay,' she says. In her later days as an actress, she drank two bottles of Champagne and three bottles of wine a day. Repeated suicide attempts saw her cutting her wrists, taking sleeping pills and trying to gas herself. Lovers beat her, betrayed her and exploited her because she was naive and vulnerable. They treated her as a slut and a prostitute. She neglected her only child, Nicholas. Her pregnancy was 'the punishment of God' and, at her son's birth, she shouted: 'I don't want to see him again.' Marlon Brando paid no attention to her when she slipped into his hotel room dressed as a maid with breakfast on a tray. Pablo Picasso kept a careful distance when she visited his studio. 'The madness which surrounded me always seemed unreal,' she recalls. 'I was never really prepared for the life of a star. I'm happier in my routine life today than when I was chased after by 100 photographers.' Up to a point, Brigitte. She may have retreated into a life far from the glitz of the cinema, refusing cosmetic surgery, dressing badly and living in a small house surrounded by rescued animals, a rusty little Renault and a broken-down Range Rover. But her anger about her country and today's society hardly speaks of a contented retirement. As she celebrated her 62nd birthday yesterday, the most famous Frenchwoman since Joan of Arc was hammering on about modern society. 'I hate it,' she thundered. 'I detest it and think it's horrible with its decadence, moral and physical filth, the loss of essential values.' But there is one source of happiness amid her bitterness - her animals. Her book tells of her favourite sheep, her duckling, her donkey, her goat and her dogs. All, naturally, had childish pet names. If her famous figure is a bit slack these days, it doesn't matter because 'animals couldn't care less'. Her worst denunciation of fellow French actress Catherine Deneuve is that she has been seen wearing fur. The memoirs go up to her exit from the cinema. A second volume is promised in which she will tell the world how she has managed to put with the misery of existence 'by putting myself to the service of an immense misery, animal misery'. Ms Bardot is hard at work on another volume of memoirs, no doubt equally bilious. In the meantime, one of her successors as a French idol, Isabelle Adjani, has delivered another blow to national pride by announcing that the air pollution in Paris is driving her to live in Switzerland with her infant son. President Chirac had better keep a close watch on that Pessimism Index.