Review: Sawdust and Tinsel (Sweden 1953)

“You smell of stables, cheap perfume and sweat. But I’ll lick you clean like a dog.”

Maybe earlier Bergman is just more my style, I prefer this more wry, humanist material (and his delightful Smiles of a Summer Night) to his heavier experimental or nakedly philosophical films. Sawdust is Bergman at his most Fellini-esque with his tale of a ringmaster going through an existential crisis as his circus visits his hometown, setting up a conflict between his road wife (played by Bergman regular Harriet Andersson) and his actual wife, who has long since moved on. Though maybe it’s the other way around and Fellini borrowed from this, as La Strada came out the following year. Of course, maybe both were borrowing from Ozu, who bookended these films with his dual versions of Floating Weeds in ’34 and ’59. This is such fertile ground, they’re all terrific.

Andersson is really the highlight here, she’s childish and petulant, but vivacious and dynamic – the scenes of her bantering and flirting with a local cad positively crackle with sexual chemistry. She owns this movie.

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