Saturday, December 15, 2007


The 1968 sex farce "Candy" is one of those movies that must have seemed dated about six months after it came out. Based on the scandalous novel by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg, it starred the unknown Swedish teenager Ewa Aulin, in her Hollywood debut. (Given the content, it's a bit disturbing that she was just 18 when this was made.) Candy is basically a version of Candide, but with a female protagonist, and updated for the swinging 60's, baby. The film follows Candy on a picaresque series of adventures with a number of men, who all want to sleep with her. John Astin, most famous of course as Gomez Addams on the Addams Family, gives a good dual supporting performance as Candy's father and uncle.

The first man in question is Richard Burton as the drunk poet McPhisto, who has a wind machine constantly blowing his hair, even indoors. Burton's performance is the best in the film, as he effortlessly sends up his own reputation as a boozy ladies' man with a penchant for poetry. It's one of the few times Burton actually got to be funny on screen.

Then Ringo Starr shows up as, yes, you guessed it, a Mexican gardener! Oh about total miscasting! It's just painful to think that Ringo actually took time away from the Beatles to do this! But he quickly disappears, and next up is...Walter Matthau as a gung ho Army leader, very similar to Keenan Wynn's Col. Bat Guano in Dr. Strangelove, also by Terry Southern. Matthau's performance is another highlight, as he nails the blustery demeanor of the John Wayne-like military commander. But the story starts to lose steam, and it's all downhill from we see James Coburn as a doctor with a bit of a God complex...and how can you not like James Coburn? But the sequence is overly long, although Rolling Stones fans should be on the lookout for Anita Pallenberg as Coburn's nurse. She was Brian Jones's girlfriend, and then Keith stole her from Brian. Keith and Anita had a son together, Dandelion, aka Marlon. Apparently some people in the Stones' camp thought that Anita was a witch...anyway...back to the film...

Charles Aznavour has a pointless role as a hunchback...and then, finally, as our reward for making it this far into the film, we get...wait for it...Marlon Brando as a fake guru! Brando's performance caps off the film. His performance is indulgent, eccentric, and knowingly self-aware, which of course means that it's a perfect late-Brando performance. Using these qualifications, late Brando is just about anything after Guys and Dolls. Seriously, Brando is great, and you'll be amazed at how thin he was! He's tiny! How did he ever get so big??? Brando had such a reservoir of goodwill stored up from his early roles that he never quite extinguished it in his lifetime, try as he might to do so. It was always enjoyable to see him, no matter what he did or how weird he was.

The ending of Candy makes no sense, of course, and why should it? Candy is led to an underground temple, and the man who led her there, who is obscured by white body paint, starts to caress her. In the creepiest moment of the film, the man is revealed to be none other than Candy's father. Ick! What that's supposed to mean, I have no idea, other than ick! Gross! Anyway, after that, Candy frolics on a grassy hill with all the members of the cast, whilst some "groovy" music plays in the background...all of which bears an uncanny resemblance to the ending of the 40-Year-Old Virgin! I'm not kidding, see for yourself! Also, watch for Brando's crucifixion pose at the end, which was something of a trademark for him, (see One-Eyed Jacks, when he gets whipped, and the Young Lions, when he's shot) it's typical Brando self-indulgence, and probably a small clue as to how he saw himself.

Aulin is actually pretty good as Candy, although the role really calls for more reacting than actual acting...she doesn't have even a trace of a Swedish accent, so casting her as an American teenager was not a stretch. Aulin was certainly attractive enough to play the part, she wears her miniskirts well.

So what is the point of Candy? I suppose the message is, don't trust authority, man, cause it will use you for your hot Swedish body, man. Authority will always try to screw you, haha? Don't trust drunken poets, Mexican gardeners, the military, doctors, hunchbacks, avant-grade filmmakers, and gurus, I guess. Hey, wise words. Oh, another of the hideously dated aspects of Candy is the intro and outro, which are outer-space shots, as we slowly pan into and back from the Earth. Which might be cool if it weren't a total rip-off of 2001: A Space Odyssey, released earlier in 1968.

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