So imagine my delight yesterday when I watched two films that featured pretty young thespians au naturel. Josephine Baker and Harriet Andersson. Both were 21 at the time and were fine performers as well as being particularly easy on the eyes.
Siren of the Topics (1927) is the latest in my personal exploration of silent films. It is one of those films that is not particularly good but a joy to watch nonetheless -- and I'd say that even if Josephine Baker, as Papitou, had kept her clothes on. Thankfully Ms. Baker delighted in cavorting about sans garb. Both instances in which she is disrobed during Siren, skinny dipping and bathing, are germane to the plot (wink, wink).
It's all rather silly if one stops to take it seriously. But as Saturday matinee entertainment it's fine stuff. It's also a way to get a look at Ms. Baker, who dances up a storm and plays her part to perfection. Especially the nude scenes.
Summer With Monika (1953) was the first screen pairing of legendary director Ingmar Bergman and one of his frequent actresses, Harriet Andersson. It is also the first Bergman film that Woody Allen ever saw. He choose to go see it as a teenager because -- I kid you not -- he'd heard there was a naked lady in it (didn't I tell ya?). Allen may or may not have fallen in love with Ms. Andersson, but he most certainly fell in love with the films of Bergman who became a major influence on Allen's career.
Andersson plays the title character, an 18 year old good time girl who is in love with a young working boy her age, Harry (Lars Ekborg). They escape their contentious families and nowhere jobs for a Summer romp on a boat. Their adventures including stealing from a wealthy farmer, fighting a psycho/jealous acquaintance and Monika stripping down to her birthday suit for a stroll on the beach.
Summer With Monika has just gotten the Criterion treatment. The new DVD will be available later next month but it can currently be seen on Hulu Plus, which offers a bounty of great films for a nominal and well-worth-it monthly fee. It is a gorgeous movie to watch and contemplate, which makes it a typical Bergman film. Andersson could not have been better and this early starring performance promised much more to come from her.
It is interesting that, though the middle third of the film takes place in the great outdoors, it begins and ends scenes in the big city, Stockholm. I can't think of another Bergman film with so many scenes of big city neighborhoods and streets. He tended to shoot in small towns, farms and, of course, the distant past. His urban scenes are every bit as beautiful in their own way as the more rustic settings.
Andersson is as beautiful on screen as anyone the great director shot. In Summer With Monika she seems to have a different look with her clothes and hair in every scene. Her persona too goes through various flights, perhaps in keeping with her physical look, or vise versa. I'll have to watch it again to sort that out. And no I won't pause during the nude scene (for very long).