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Sunday, July 19, 2009

ANITA (1973)

I’m not usually suckered into checking out a DVD by provocative packaging, but there are always exceptions and this film is a distinct case in point. I mean, look at this image, weathered to look like a dirty novel, ferfucksake!!!

I purchased this one out of porn curiosity and what did I get? A sensitive sexploitation flick about an insatiable nymphomaniac, that’s what. Who’da thunk it?

I’ve only seen two of her films — THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE and SEX & FURY, both from 1973 — but I’m a huge fan of Swedish sex goddess Christina Lindberg’s work for the simple facts of her honest to the gods acting talent and her normal-person beauty. Well that and the fact that she was very kindly not afraid to drop her clothes like they were a bad habit. I normally hate soft-core stuff, but for Lindberg it was wholly appropriate since she was too adorable and pixie-ish for the “butcher’s shop window” visuals found in the more explicit world of actual pornography and it was also nice to see her in a film where her character was not a victim of off-putting sexual violence. Sure, her character in this one gives it away like flavorless soup at the local homeless shelter, but that’s beside the point.

Lindberg plays young Anita, a girl whose loveless home situation sends her down a path of compulsive promiscuity, a situation that alarms her parents, but not enough for them to actually get off of their self-centered asses and try to give their daughter the help she so obviously needs. Anita’s sexual adventuring is totally joyless — an interesting aspect to the film since this kind of stuff usually features women who enjoy being endlessly and mindlessly used by the sleazy, conscience-free guys in the story — and her encounters with complete strangers occupy much of the film’s running time, getting the first three trysts out of the way within the first ten minutes.

As her compulsion rages out of control, Anita becomes notorious in her hometown for sucking off, jerking off, or fucking any guy who’s willing to go into a broom closet with her, and the locals of her age become hostile and violent toward her — the girls are threatened by her crazed sexuality and the guys who haven’t fucked her tend to be outraged — so she leaves town and moves in with a house full of college students, most of whom are musicians. The notable exception among the schoolies is a psychology major named Erik (played by a very young Stellan Skarsgard) — who meets Anita after stumbling over her as she emerges from a makeshift tent after fucking some scumbag at the side of a construction site — and when she moves into the house he shares with the musicians, he puts his psychiatric chops to the test.

The story unfolds as a series of flashbacks related to Erik by Anita, and over the course of the film it becomes apparent that Erik has fallen in love with his patient. The problem with that is that Anita feels she’s a worthless person, so her intimate encounters with junkies, illegal immigrants, strangers and other users are all she can handle, and she won’t entertain the idea of a man actually loving her for who she is. Erik convinces Anita that all she needs to do is have an orgasm — something she never experienced during her countless encounters or masturbation — so how does she accomplish this? She finds a lesbian character that just shows up from out of nowhere and they have the first truly tender sex in the whole film, that's how! Then Anita runs away from the university house and becomes a performer in a nudie club, where she realizes that she’s now ready to have a healthy relationship after seeing her co-workers degrade themselves for a living. She hooks up with the truly nice Erik and it’s alluded to that they’ll get married; after all the miserable shit, they made it through and they’re finally happy. THE END.

During all of this there’s plenty of skin to satisfy the trench coat brigade but once you suss out the semi-artsy structure of the flick, you may find that you have compassion for this poor girl who just cant stop her drive for intimacy sans a human connection. I certainly did, and while I will never tire of Lindberg’s nudity — particularly her absolutely perfect, PERFECT breasts — about halfway through the film I no longer wanted to see her nude within the story’s sad context and if the grindhouse regulars who saw ANITA during its original run had any kind of human feeling, they likely didn’t either.

ANITA is very interesting but since it’s still a sexploitation flick, I can’t recommend it for a casual audience unless the individual viewer keeps an open mind when approaching it. Yes, there’s wall-to-wall nudity and prurient content, but it’s all within a legitimate narrative context. So, what the hell? Give it a chance.

Again, gaw-DAMN!!!