In celebrating the centennial of the birth of Greta Garbo, the various DVD and film society and television tributes focused on the Swedish star’s Hollywood triumphs. What has been conspicuously missing from festivities is Garbo’s very unlikely final film appearance.
Garbo’s last peek on camera was in a 1974 gay porno movie called “Adam & Yves.” The idea of 69-year-old Greta Garbo doing gay porno is, admittedly, a bit upsetting to every imaginable audience. But Garbo did not willingly return from her three-decade self-imposed movie exile to camp it up with a bunch of nude men.
Garbo’s scene is actually an irrelevant moment in the film. About half-way through the movie, the title characters are enjoying a chat break following some hot-and-heavy action when one of them abruptly announces “I saw her.” The “her” is Garbo and the film suddenly shifts into a shaky, grainy POV shot taken from what seems to be the rooftop of a New York apartment building. The camera focuses on a woman, heavily dressed in a hat and trenchcoat, wandering down the street. She stops to talk briefly with a passerby and then goes on her way. Through it all, the gay guy who witnessed “her” gushes about seeing this mysterious legend on a New York street. The whole thing lasts about three minutes.
The Garbo footage seems to have been shot in 8mm and not with a telephoto lens. Even though it is not crystal clear, the figure is unmistakably Garbo (despite her oft-repeated requests for solitude, she was a visible and recognizable presence in New York during her later years – and I even saw her once going down First Avenue). It is a funny piece of movie trivia, given where the footage turned up. Furthermore, there is no evidence to suggest Garbo was ever the wiser.
And “Adam & Yves”? Well, it is springtime in Paris and the American Adam falls under the poetry-reciting, pants-dropping spell of the local Yves. Yves gets his Garbo up by quoting from her movie “Queen Christina” before deflowering Adam. The guys fall in lust, but whether they are in love is another matter. Irrelevant scenes including an act of onanism in an empty church and an all-black male orgy are inserted for no clear reason (at least not in regard to the coherence of the script).
To be frank, “Adam & Yves” is difficult to endure. Much of the dialogue is badly dubbed (and too much of the talk is in rhyme), while the happy-chirpy music seems to belong in a 4H educational movie. And the film’s graphic eroticism will not be easy for those who have no tolerance for gay sex scenes in movies. If you are a heterosexual Garbo fan, it is best to watch this movie on fast forward until you get to the rare final screen shot. And then, hit that Eject button!