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Plot: Eva’s milkshake brings all boys to the yard…

To say it in the immortal words of the great philosopher Franz Josef Gottlieb: “Hurra! Die Schwedinnen sind da.” After Joseph W. Sarno’s Inga (1968) (with Marie Liljedahl) the only way to continue was to push the envelope further. Thus was born Eva den utstötta (released under a variety of sensationalist titles in various territories while the original title translates to simply Eva - the Outcast, just Eva hereafter) that placed divinely proportioned auburn haired starlet Solveig Andersson at the top of Swedish sexploitation pantheon. Or at least until the arrival of one Christina Lindberg just twelve months later. Eva is no Dog Days (1970). No, Eva is better on all fronts. Biblical implications or no. This is probably the closest Sweden ever got their own Schoolgirl Report (1970). Equally sensationalist and framed as a serious exposé on youth sexuality Eva takes a well-deserved jab at the small-town obsession with what everybody does in the privacy of their bedrooms and reveals the rank hypocrisy of small-town provincialism in all its utterly banal ugliness. It’s, if nothing else, another excuse to have att se vackra flickor bli nakna.

Solveig Andersson had a blitz career that burned bright and fizzled out quick. In just 6 short years she was in the Danish-Swedish classic Dagmar's Hot Pants, Inc. (1971) and co-starred alongside Christina Lindberg three times, in Every Afternoon (1972), Thriller – A Grim Film (1973), and Wide Open (1974). As far as Nordporn goes, there are only a couple of names that really matter: the Maries Liljedahl and Forså, Solveig Andersson, Christina Lindberg, and Birte Tove. We’d love to include Leena Skoog on that list but her two Laila (17 år) (1969) one-reels are her only real contributions and not even her Four Dimensions of Greta (1972) is enough to consider her anything more than a blip on the radar. What Leena Skoog was to freezing hot Nordic blondes Solveig was to the redhaired girl-next-door. And to the definitive queens of Svenka ero somebody like Skoog could, and cannot, possibly compare. Wide Open (1974) would be the swansong for both Andersson and Christina Lindberg and was preceded by the Japanese pinky violence feature Mitsu no shitatari (1973) on one side and the western Dead Man’s Trail (1975) on the other. Interestingly (but not very surprisingly) somewhere after 1976 when her career had truly and well ended Andersson became a born-again Christian. She now is a poet and in 2014 briefly returned to television. Since then little has been heard of her and it’s safe to assume she has retired permanently.

Eva (Solveig Andersson) is a 14-year-old tonårsflickas in a sleepy hamlet somewhere in Sweden and she has a problem. She can’t relate to her friends in school as she’s quite developed for her tender age. She’s a girl in a woman’s body. As a victim of parental neglect all Eva craves is some warmth and love. Or a candy bar. Her full figure drives men insane, and that’s the only currency she has. When Eva one day offers her body to vagrant 'Järla-Bana' Karlsson (Arne Ragneborn) she suddenly becomes to talk of the town. She has brought scandal upon her pastoral community and embarrased her foster parents Alma (Hanny Schedin) and Peter Fredriksson (Arthur Fischer). Now den utstötta the moral guardians of the town form a council of elders and propose an investigation into the young wench’s sinful conduct. Community gatekeepers such as psychiatrist Jenny Berggren (Barbro Hiort af Ornäs) and the pastor (Segol Mann) each present their views into Eva’s psychological profile and her state of mind. The judge (Lars Lennartsson) will then deliberate and announce the verdict. The investigation from the police superintendent (Jan Erik Lindqvist) attracts the attention of Landsposten newspaper editor-in-chief (Einar Axelsson) who assigns journalist Lennart Swenningson (Hans Wahlgren) to follow up on the pending court case. When Eva is called to the stand she tells that she’s just a girl finding her way in the world. How she experimented with her friend Berit Svensson (Inger Sundh) during a sleepover and drew the ire of Berit’s mother (Karin Miller). However, not everything is just mischief and in her interview Eva implicates a number different men whom she provided sexual services to. Some of them poor working class slobs, others aristocratic gentlemen and distinguished bourgeoisie; and even the police superintendent.

Solveig Andersson was probably the Scandinavian equivalent to German soft sex superstars as Barbara Capell, Ulrike Butz, or Mascha Gonska. Much like the aforementioned Leena Skoog, she too had that girl-next-door quality and pretty much the same build as Edwige Fenech, Danielle Ouimet, and Luciana Ottaviani. Whereas Christina Lindberg was an anime sex doll given flesh, Andersson was more regular looking (but never plain or ordinary like, say, Gisela Schwartz) and it was the same thing that made Marie Liljedahl famous. In many ways she was similar to Eurocult queens Muriel Catalá, Christina von Blanc, and the Pascals, Françoise and Olivia. It’s perplexing how she never ended up in the strange world of Jess Franco as Solveig was exactly the homely and innocuous type Franco loved. Andersson would have fit seamlessly with the likes of Soledad Miranda, Romina Power, Christina von Blanc, Susan Hemingway, as well as the French and the Pascals, Françoise and Olivia.

In many ways Eva is a lighter, more wholesome alternative to Dan Wolman’s Maid In Sweden (1971), or Wickman’s own depressing tale of teenage woe Anita Swedish Nymphet (1973), by way of the sensationalist Schoolgirl Report (1970). The wide availability of anti-conceptives and sex now being seen as recreative heralded a new era of hedonism reflected in a veritable explosion of soft erotica. Inga (1968) pushed the envelope as far as it could, and Eva does even moreso. It has the heart of Alfred Vohrer’s Herzblatt (1969) (with Mascha Gonska) and the lighter tone is very much akin to Joe Sarno’s Butterflies (1975) (with Marie Forså). Swedish erotica was always more matter-of-fact and naturalistic in comparison to the slapstick of Great Britain, West Germany, and Italy. In that sense Sweden was closer to France while not nearly, if it all, having that oneiric Mediterranean quality. Nominally described as a comedy Eva is more of a drama, but doesn’t shy away from the occasional comedic moment. In a particularly funny exchange Eva and her friend Berit are lolling about semi-naked in the latter’s attic bedroom during a sleepover at the Svensson abode. “Does sex make breasts grow?” Berit wonders out aloud while feeling Eva’s and complimenting how soft hers are, “No,” she continues having given it further thought, “then I would have had giant breasts.” It’s the kind of quip you expect from Lederhosenporn specialists Franz Josef Gottlieb, Alois Brummer, or Hubert Frank – not some Swede.

Torgny Wickman apparently wants the viewer to take this as a serious piece of socio-political filmmaking as he examines the ins and outs of teen sexuality. Wickman never fails to hide his more exploitative inclinations behind the thinnest veneer of an exposé. Nobody is going to watch something like this for the supposed social commentary it offers and more than likely for the bröst and röv that Andersson and some of the other flicka put on display. At least there’s some semblance of a story which is never really a given with these sort of things. The witness testimonies at the trial are a really economic framing device for small vignettes involving all different parties. It’s not exactly Schoolgirl Report (1970) styled cinema verité and it’s never as transgressive as Joël Séria’s Don't Deliver Us from Evil (1971) either. Wickman wisely concludes that the wise community gatekeepers (cranky old people and moral guardians) shouldn’t concern themselves too much with what people do in the privacy of their own bedrooms, lest their obvious hypocrisy be exposed in the process. It’s exactly the kind of comeuppance they deserve, and one you seldom see in Hollywood treatments.

Plot: two liberated adolescent girls escape their boring small-town lives.

That To Be Twenty wasn’t going to be the average commedia sexy all’Italiana is more than obvious when it opens with “I was twenty, I won't let anyone say those are the best years of your life”, a quote from French philosopher Paul Nizan, a friend of Jean-Paul Sartre. Earlier in the decade director Fernando Di Leo had experienced trouble with authorities and government for this his Milieu Trilogy consisting of Caliber 9 (1972), The Italian Connection (1971), and The Boss (1973). Di Leo had already poked fun at the inherent absurdities of the giallo with The Beast Kills In Cold Blood (1971) and now he was looking to channel his subversive inclinations elsewhere. What better way to indulge in some devastating socio-political criticism than to dress it up as a light and fun commedia sexy all’Italiana? Who better to deliver said pointed message than the genre’s two prime Lolitas as well as veterans Vittorio Caprioli and Ray Lovelock? To Be Twenty is the summit of 1970s Italian comedy. The less you know about its most celebrated punch the better. For that reason we encourage anybody seriously interested in experiencing To Be Twenty with virgin eyes to seek out the original uncut Italian print – and to avoid the international English-language cut at any cost.

From 1964 to 1985 Di Leo directed 20 movies and wrote 43 screenplays. As many a director Fernando Di Leo got his start as a screenwriter and one of his most famous screenplays was that for the spaghetti western A Fistful Of Dollars (1964) from Sergio Leone. For the sequel For A Few Dollars More (1965) Leone promoted Di Leo to assistant director. Like so many he filmed in whatever genre was popular and profitable that decade. As such Di Leo directed spaghetti westerns, film noir, poliziotteschi, and crime/action movies. In retrospect it’s only just that Di Leo is mostly remembered for his masterpiece, the one that pulled the rug from under the otherwise futile commedia sexy all’Italiana genre so fabulously by having the exposed bodies of Guida and Carati act as vessels for biting socio-political criticism.

Better even, Di Leo likes to play with audience expectations and in To Be Twenty he used a decidedly funny running gag to deliver the movie’s most celebrated and most widely misuderstood punch. Said punch was so controversial that worried distributors quickly pulled it from theatres, and with scissors in hand butchered one of Italy’s greatest and most subversive sex comedies. In what only can be considered one of the most puzzling re-edits in Italian and international cinema history, they completely missed the point Di Leo was making. Fernando Di Leo had planned a prequel set in 1940s Italy with Gloria Guida and Lilli Carati both reprising their roles, but the out-of-nowhere surprise ending didn’t sit well with audiences and distributors alike. Thus the intended prequel never materialized. Di Leo passed away of natural causes at the age of 71 in December 2003.

Lia (Gloria Guida) and Tina (Lilli Carati) are two emancipated adolescents hitchhiking their way from the provinces to the more cosmopolitan Rome. Describing themselves as, “young, hot and pissed off” the two concubines are in search of a place that will allow them to live out their lives in complete freedom, sexual and otherwise. The two feel restricted in their traditional rural environment and seek to try their luck in the more liberated Rome. En route to the big city the two hike across town but they seem to have little luck hitching a ride until Tina throws a few seductive glances across the road. A car finally pulls up and the girls’ spirits are lifted at long last. That is until the driver (Serena Bennato) make a pass on Tina and she angrily storms off as Lia looks on. The girls decide to take their chances and wait it out. Thankfully a friendly trucker takes them in and drives them to town, a place where he was going anyway. Before getting into the truck they encounter Nazariota (Vittorio Caprioli), proprietor of a hippie commune in the city where everybody is free to do whatever they please. Their acquaintances made Lia and Tina hop into the truck and are on their way to Rome.

What are two searingly beautiful adolescent girls to do in the big city? The two play in and drink from public fountains, steal cigarettes, enter a local café and flirt their way out of having to pay for anything. They break into impromptu suggestive dance routines on the Piazza di Spagna much to the amusement of a street musician and they shoplift from a convenient store because what else do we expect two beautiful girls with no discernable life skills to do? Looks are everything. After their assorted misadventures in town the girls happen upon the commune from Nazariota. Tina is immediately smitten by strapping free-spirited layabout Rico (Ray Lovelock) while Lia is happy to enjoy the quiet that the commune offers. They are given a living quarters with Arguinas (Leopoldo Mastelloni), a seemingly mute mime, but in actuality a practitioner of transcendental meditation. To occupy their time and to support themselves at the commune the duo sell encyclopedias to dusty professors. Lia and Tina engage in lesbian histrionics to tempt Arguinas, attend a reading of Valerie Solanas's 1965 radical feminist SCUM Manifesto and eventually realize the commune is a front for prostitution and drug running. A lesbian (Licinia Lentini) tries to seduce Lia. Not much later commune member Riccetto (Vincenzo Crocitti) is revealed to be an informant and hard-nosed police inspector Zambo (Giorgio Bracardi) grills the inhabitants. At this point Tina and Lia flee the commune because it’s not nearly as free as was promised. The two then enter a trattoria where they meet a man (Carmelo Reale, as Roberto Reale) and his gang. One last flirt couldn’t possibly hurt, right? What harm would anybody possibly inflict on two searingly beautiful adolescent girls?

The stars of To Be Twenty are the two prime Lolitas of lowbrow commedia sexy all’Italiana: Gloria Guida and Lilli Carati. Gloria Guida was Miss Teen Italy 1974 and the star of Mario Imperoli’s Monika (1974) and Blue Jeans (1975) that made her shapely derrière a legend in its own right. As a nod to her most famous movie Guida wears a similar pair of lowcut denim. Gloria was everybody’s favorite clothing-averse schoolgirl in a trio of La Liceale (1975) movies in the mid-to-late seventies. Whether she was a naughty schoolgirl, a novice at the convent, or a young nurse – at some point Gloria always ended up losing her top and frequently more articles of clothing. Where Gloria Guida was, very naked shenanigans usually followed. Guida might not have been a Laura Antonelli but she dominated the niche that she inhabited. It’s easy to forget that glorious Gloria shared the screen with Corrado Pani, Nino Castelnuovo, Lando Buzzanca, Marco Guglielmi, Mario Carotenuto, Ennio Colaianni, and Giuseppe Pambieri. Guida married crooner and showman Johnny Dorelli in 1981 and the two have been together since. Gloria maintained a short-lived singing career next to her acting as can be heard in the title song of To Be Twenty as well as Night Nurse (1979). La Guida remains a beloved monument of Italian culture, cinema and otherwise, even to this day.

Fate wasn’t so kind to poor Lilli Carati. Carati was also a former pageant and even was crowned Miss Elegance at a beauty contest in Calabria next to being the first runner-up at Miss Italy 1975. Lovely Lilli was a star of lowbrow comedies in her own right, but her star never shone as bright nor as fierce as Guida’s. Carati appeared on the covers of Playboy (December, 1976 and September, 1978), Playmen (October, 1976) and Penthouse (December, 1982). In 1984 Lilli made her acquaintance with director Joe D’Amato through mutual friend Jenny Tamburi and before long Carati appeared in four of D’Amato’s erotic movies. Things turned to worse for lovely Lilli as by 1987 she had descended into hardcore pornography and worked with performer Rocco Siffredi on a number of occasions. In the 1980s Carati would lose herself in addiction to alcohol, heroin, and cocaine. After two suicide attempts and an arrest for possession Lilli underwent therapy for three years in the Saman community of anti-authoritarian sociologist, journalist, political activist, and sometime guru Mauro Rostagno – famously murdered by the Costa Nostra - where she was the subject of the documentary Lilli, una vita da eroina (or Lilli, A Life of Heroin) by Rony Daopoulos. In 2014, at age 58, disgraced and forgotten, she passed away from a brain tumour.

To say that To Be Twenty is brazenly irreverent and subtextually rich would be an understatement if there ever was one. What Top Sensation (1969) from Ottavio Alessi was to the giallo, To Be Twenty was to the a light-hearted commedia sexy all’Italiana. 1970s Italy was a target-rich environment and Di Leo aims at everything from Italian machismo culture, provincial attitudes towards sexuality, gender roles, and youth counterculture to police corruption, the class divide, and the futility of the hippie Love Generation. It mocks self-important males in roles of authority (store detectives, police inspectors), the generation gap and the bourgeoisie. It has a biting contempt for everything and everyone, and anything is a potential target for critique. In the feature’s biggest running joke Lia and Tina throw themselves at each and every man (and who in their right mind would rebuke Gloria Guida and Lilli Carati in 1978?) they encounter yet are rejected again and again. Glorious Gloria had done her fair part of melodrama at this point – but she never, either before or after, was given a script this impressive. Forget the flights of fancy from The Minor (1974), forget the wicked mischief of That Malicious Age (1975) or the tragedy of Sins Of Youth (1975). This might start out like a variation on either Blue Jeans (1975) or La Liceale (1975) – but this is something else. This one is seething with disdain and overflowing with contempt – and any and everybody is fair game.

Nobody’s going to contest that Gloria Guida’s tour of duty through Italian comedy yielded any bona fide classics, one or two exceptions notwithstanding. Both Guida and Carati excelled in playing sexually promiscuous airheaded bimbos, and they did so with great relish and gusto. By 1978 every possible permutation and sexual kink of the commedia sexy all’Italiana had been thoroughly exhausted. To drag the genre kicking and screaming into the next decade somebody had to upset the status-quo and defy expectations in a major way. Fernando Di Leo heeded that call. Gloria Guida and Lilli Carati both were the Lolitas of the lower end of the spectrum and To Be Twenty follows all of the usual conventions wonderfully to create a false sense of security. Everything looks like pretty standard fare you’d expect from these belles except that Di Leo’s screenplay is far darker and more cynical around every turn. Vittorio Caprioli and Licinia Lentini play the kind of characters expected of them. It’s all very tongue-in-cheek and the jokes come flying early and often. It’s not until the very end until To Be Twenty reveals its true motives and lasting power. It’s unfortunate that neither Guida nor the late Carati ever had the chance to partake in another sardonic and deconstructionist genre exercise like this again. Di Leo knew their strengths and played up to them. To make a long story short, To Be Twenty is among the best 70s commedia sexy all’Italiana has to offer. The only caveat is that this is only true for the original uncut Italian print – and not the international English-language version chopped together by panicky distributors.