So, yeah, I brought the new year in by doing an illustration and then watching this 1978 Swedish exploitation flik starring Christina Lindberg. And wow, what an utterly bizarre movie. Anita is literally a nymphomaniac — that is, she has a psychological compulsion to have sex. So far, it could be a porn set-up, and obviously soft-core is a lot of the point here; Lindberg is extremely good-looking if you have any interest at all in the innocent waif look, and she seems to take her shirt off every other scene or so. And obviously, the clinical set-up is more or less an excuse to have her do that. But the movie never quite treats it as an excuse; instead, Anita’s compulsion is played for sympathy/psychological drama as much as for thrills — Lindberg is a decent actress, and she seems genuinely distressed by sleeping with all these guys, having her reputation destroyed, her horrible relationship with her parents. The sexual encounters are also played really grimy and depressing and sordid for the most part, more depressing than arousing.
The exploitation elements and the pyschological drama and sordidness collide in some (I think intentionally) hilarious ways. There’s one scene in which Anita starts out singing a demure series of songs at a dinner party with her parents — and then she does a striptease for all their friends. And her parents are just like, oh, gee, what should we do now that our daughter is thrusting her crotch at Dad’s boss?! And they don’t do anything! It’s completely surreal and weird; like Bunuel just wandered in, directed one scene and left. There’s also a laugh-out-loud funny moment where a young, earnest psychology student explains to Anita that to save herself from nymphomania, she must have an orgasm as soon as possible — and he’s telling her this at the breakfast table with two other female roommates present! I guess since he’s a student he can’t afford a room with a couch….
That psychology student, incidentally, is pretty much a sweetheart and fairly good-looking to boot; his obsession with Anita is certainly creepy, but compared to most of the guys she deals with he’s obviously a gem. So…he screws her into orgasm and she is cured, right? Uh uh. The end of the movie is somewhat incoherent, but as near as I can tell, Anita manages to obtain an orgasm…by sleeping with a woman. Then she joins a lesbian sex show, and thereby discovers she has lost her compulsion to sleep with men. Only then does she screw the psychology student, and they live happily ever after.
Obviously, this is an example of Fanny, and it’s icky fascination/disavowal/lascivious sympathy with female deviance/psychology isn’t any kind of feminist message. And, inevitably, the cure for lots of sex is better sex, rather than, say, no sex, or less sex, or, you know, taking up a hobby. But there’s also (and somewhat out of left field) an acknowledgment of the importance of female-female relationships (the movie passes the Bechdel test). And there is some effort to find a man for the heroine who is moderately attractive. Though, of course, we never exactly see her falling in love with him (rather than vice versa.) He just sort of gets her as a prize for being such a good guy and sticking with her and not having sex with her when she couldn’t control herself and generally being there for her over a long period of time, all of which is cool but not necessarily a reason in itself to have sex with him. Though that’s better than having sex with someone for being a nerdy loser with no redeeming qualities, I guess.