|An instance of PERFORMANCE-like decadence from Mai Zetterling's NIGHT GAMES.|
Last night I treated myself to an evening of forbidden Swedish cinema (forbidden in the sense that it's not commercially available here), beginning with Mai Zetterling's bizarre NIGHT GAMES (Nattlek, 1966), a film which won some stateside notoreity when Shirley Temple resigned from the board of the San Francisco Film Festival when they refused to bar the film - which she considered obscene - from exhibition. It's a garish film to be sure, aggressively weird in that faux-Fellini way, and it contains at least one scene (between Ingrid Thulin and the young actor playing her pre-pubescent son) that would never be permitted today, but as the point of the story became clearer, I found it winning me over to its side. This started happening when I realized that the film had been the missing visual link - in my own cinematic education - between Losey's THE SERVANT and Cammell and Roeg's PERFORMANCE; like those films, NIGHT GAMES is about people who don't get enough sunshine, whose homes fester into a second skull housing their increasingly baroque and dangerous games of cat and mouse. Made pretty much exactly between those two films, we can clearly see ordinary decadence becoming both sick and psychedelic here.
YES turned out to be conspicuously different to the Swedish-language version I'd seen before. Kvinnolek (which I'm told means "Girl on Girl" - not to be confused with his 1974 Marie Forsa film GIRL MEETS GIRL) is not just different in the musical way that INGA (made immediately before it) is different to its Swedish version. It's nearly a 10 minute difference. Kvinnolek includes several scenes that weren't in the copy of YES I watched:
1) In the first party scene, a blonde guest on the dance floor strips down to her panties and dances until one of the male guests carries her off and throws her on a bed;
2) Ingrid visits Lisa's office and makes the acquaintance of one of her male business associates, whom we subsequently see (even in the YES version, with omits their meeting) dating and making love;
3) After Ingrid seduces a member of a rock band and tires him out, she redresses and takes to the street in frustration where she meets another man within view of a church, who takes her to his apartment, removes her dress and begins making love to her (if this sounds familiar, it's because the US version removed this portion and used the first part to create a more conservative finale);
4) Kvinnolek includes a brief night exterior of Ingrid running toward camera down a street, but omits the set-up for this shot found in YES, where she is accosted by two drunken men after leaving the previous man's apartment - the scene humorously plays itself out with two louts deciding they are happier with each other than chasing a broad;
Finally, the climactic lesbian scene between Ingrid and Lisa unfolds differently in the two versions. In Kvinnolek, their initial standing kiss cuts to a full length shot of the two women, covered by a white sheet, then the scene cuts to them in bed, Lisa kissing Ingrid's face everywhere but on the mouth. Then, the scene fades to white (a most unusual touch for 1966) and we see the two women waking together and having what appears to be - it's in Swedish, so I can't tell for certain - a happy, conciliatory conversation which then fades to black as the exit music plays.
The scene, as it plays in YES, adds in roughly a full minute of graphic yet non-explicit footage of two body doubles sucking and grinding away, and then fades to black before fading in to Ingrid's awakening and furtive departure. I couldn't help wondering if this was the only instance where Sarno recut the US version of one of his Swedish films to make it both more sexually explicit, yet at the same time, more sexually conservative?