Sunday, October 6, 2019
Written and Directed by James Broughton
When I first got to college, there was a student-run film series. The person running it that year had a pattern: Wednesday films were art films or obscure classics, while the weekend films were relatively recent films that had been in theaters only a few months previously. I liked that arrangement, since it let me find films I never would have heard of otherwise.
One of their Wednesday programs was a series of short films. I don’t remember any of them except for The Bed, which stayed with me for years.
The movie starts out with a shot of an old brass bed rolling down a hill and coming to rest in a meadow. And then . . . things happen.
The movie has no story. It’s a series of vignettes, without dialog, where the viewer can read into it whatever they want. There are hints of celebration, love, death, birth, joy, and the just plain surreal.
And – the source of the movie’s fame – nudity. Lots of it, male and female. Sometimes it leaned toward the erotic, but it mostly showed an open and innocent attitude toward the human body. The visual elements (aside from the obvious) made it especially fascinating.
Given the fact I had very little experience with nudity other than classical art and Playboy, this element was something new. But director/writer James Broughton used it in as non-titillating manner as possible, making it seem innocent and matter of fact.
Broughton came to prominence as a poet after WWII, and made occasional short films. He appears in this one as a saxophonist playing in a tree. The Bed brought him notice* and won several awards at film festivals. He springboarded its success to make several other movies in the ensuing years. But nothing had the same success.
*It was his first film in 15 years.