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Max von Sydow,
Around 1960, Englishman Toby Hood comes to Johannesburg in order to run a publishing company. He is open minded, and befriends people with different social ranks. The harsh realities of society force him to make a choice as to friendships.
Danish auteur Henning Carlsen is still active and delivering idiosyncratic cinema, but has yet to receive his due, after creating classics like HUNGER, the definitive role for the late Per Oscarsson.
Based on a 1945 novel, PEOPLE MEET... is a wonderful example of '60s New Wave technique -the "let's try anything" approach long since gone out of favor.
Harriet Andersson gets one of her best roles as Sofia, a blonde, young ballet dancer who beguiles blond Hans Madsen (Erik Wedersøe, terrific in his screen debut) when they're sitting opposite each other on a train ride. Hans can't get her attention, and his gaze wanders to photos on the wall of the compartment, which cue flashbacks of his girl friends.
Mithra (Lotte Horne) is his fiancée back in Skandeborg (a small Danish town near Carlsen's birthplace, Aalborg). He's also still obsessed with his ex-g.f. Evangeline (Lone Rode), now married to a bearded, goofy Sjalof (Preben Neergaard, fabulous in the film's lead male role).
Carlsen adopts a helter-skelter structure mixing narrative, flashbacks, fantasies and goof-ball whimsy (photos frequently coming to life to comment silently on the action). He uses Silent Era tinting (in many colors) of the black & white footage. There's one fleeting "red" color shot, which presages the use of that effect in RAGING BULL and SCHINDLER'S LIST.
Overall, I found this (akin to Ken Russell's famous and oft-ridiculed "dying flash" collage biographies) an excellent way to adapt lengthy and complex novels to the screen.
In just 95 minutes of running time, he covers a tremendous amount of narrative, nearly always unpredictable. I will briefly summarize to give a bit of the flavor: in one flashback Sjalof scares sexy wife Evangeline with a knife, but freaks out, doing a Russian dance, throwing the coffeemaker through a window and destroying the stove's flue. Neighbor Devah (Eva Dahlbeck, Swedish superstar who's deceptively small role proves important in late reels) comes down stairs to read the riot act to the unruly couple.
Carlsen films this in three different languages: Danish, plus Swedish spoken by his femme stars from Sweden, and everybody speaking English when the story travels to Rio de Janeiro and later NYC. Odd inter-titles are tossed in, in English, for example: "Could anything be more erotic than a cigarette?".
Eventually, after exchanging cigarettes, Madsen breaks the ice with Sofia and before you know it, they're making love in the train's water closet. After Madsen disembarks, catching another train to Skandeborg, Harriet does a weird Eastern dance using hand gestures -typically cryptic whimsy, and then gives her fans a satisfying topless scene (hot stuff for 1967) as she has sex with (coincidence ALERT:) Sjalof, who's boarded her train and instantly seduced her, cleanshaven here unlike his flashbacks.
The AFI Catalog 1961-70 has amusing malapropisms in its synopsis for the film: description of Sofia's train ride "to Rio de Janeiro" -that's a neat trick to take a train from Denmark to South America! Instead she accompanies Sjalof (undoubtedly by plane) to Rio where he introduces her to his pal Ramon, who turns out to be an ex-stepfather of Sofia's, who immediately tries to seduce her! Sjalof kills Ramon, and Sofia helps him dispose of the body.
Harriet goes to work as a dancer at a high-class Rio brothel, and the fans are treated to a fabulous production number featuring Harriet, renamed "Anitra", in a black wig sexily dancing up a storm in red-tinted footage. Sequence ends with her flying above the audience Cirque du Soleil-style, and Carlsen cannot resist having her fantasy-like ascend into Outer Space.
The brothel madam turns out to be an ex-mistress of Sofia's real father, way back when, and his photo on the brothel wall comes to life occasionally to stare disapprovingly at the action.
Sofia travels to NYC and acquires a sugar daddy, then executes an inside job where a new boyfriend Slim (Eske Holm, the film's choreographer) poses as a New Jersey fireman to rob said sugar daddy of his money. The heist turns into another dance routine - Carlsen was clearly under the sway here of Godard and his early '60s Nouvelle Vague epics.
The point is that Sofia is a free spirit -that '60s creature Gone with the Wind in these benighted times of Tea Party activism and kids worried about their student loans. Yes, I was ultra-nostalgic for the '60s by the time Carlsen finished saying his piece here.
Back in Denmark Madsen marries Mithra but it's an immediate failure. Sjalof, his beard grown back, is back with wife Evangeline, who he's put out on the streets as a hooker to support them. Dahlbeck turns out to be Sofia's mom (!), not really a stretch for the viewer since we're used to seeing these Swedish greats in so many Bergman films, together or separately.
Sjalof kills Dahlbeck (who returns later on briefly as a ghost accompanied by Ramon, her now dead ex-husband). Madsen leaves his wife and travels to Rio in search of one-night (on a train) stand Sofia, but dallies with a Black and an Oriental prostitute for a threesome at the brothel. He ventures on to NYC, where Harriet is now a huge Broadway dance star under the stage name Tomba Tomb, claiming to be a Russian ballerina.
After we see the Victory Theatre on 42nd St. showing such forgotten films as "Shameless Sex" and "Soho Strip" (latter not in IMDb), Madsen has a fantasy dream of living happily ever after with Sofia in a menage including the two mixed-combo whores from Rio!
Pic ends symmetrically with Harriet back on the initial train, raped by a masked gunman, but enjoying it, feeding him chocolates après-sex. It looks like Madsen under the mask, but she wakes up on the train alone.
One of a kind weirdness - my kind of lusty, energetic '60s movie.
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