1,000 SHAPES OF A FEMALE is a peek-a-boo nudie-cutie film, dressed or undressed if you will as a pseudo-documentary. To its credit, the viewer is provided with an art house view of Greenwich Village, New York circa 1963 in full color, complete with narration mixed with dialogue from the actors and models. We are provided with a coffee house backdrop, complete with a folk singer strumming on his acoustic guitar such chestnuts as “John Riley.” Naturally, there is a nubile young lady with a Jackie Kennedy hairstyle sitting at the foot of the singer, hanging on to his every word . The waitress serves espresso in black leotards , high heels and white apron. If you ever wondered why Jimmy Gilmer was inspired to sing about the ‘Sugar Shack'(Billboard Magazine’s #1 song of 1963) with “the cute little girlie….wearing black leotards,” you’ll find out why.
The plot hangs on the premise of various artists painting models, recreating poses of classical masters such as Matisse and Renoir. These painters recruit prospective young ladies by posting ads on the coffee house bulletin board. Some of these artists are sincere in committing to canvas actual reproductions of the original works. This requires, of course, that the model is to display her breasts and derriere. This is actually achieved in good taste with the model undressing behind a screen, posing in accordance to the original classical painting.
A few observations should be mentioned here. First, even a pedestrian knowledge of classical art in relation to the female form notes that women depicted on canvas two hundred years ago were full figured. Fortunately, the models posing for the assorted artists in this movie measure up in this regard. During the early 1960s, actresses and models were 15 to 20 pounds heavier on average than current weight dictates on the fashion scale. ( Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield were the barometers of beauty then.) They certainly looked healthier back then. An exception is Audrey Campbell who, in comparison, is downright svelte in the role of ‘Margie’. She portrays an artist and model. (Miss Campbell would go on to portray ‘Madame Olga’ in a series of sexploitation flicks. As an example of her versatility, she would also appear in television series such as THE GUIDING LIGHT and DARK SHADOWS).
Also, every model in this movie is Caucasian (the camera unfortunately doesn’t take us to Harlem) and alluringly pale. No tanning parlors back then. That means the viewer is treated to an abundance of pretty women with lipstick, heavy eye make-up and powder. Obviously, this scenario engenders charlatan painters who only wish to see women without their clothes. This premise hits ludicrous proportions as one “artist” throws darts at balloons filled with paint on a canvas while the model poses naked. She catches on to the ruse, dresses and departs quickly.
1,000 SHAPES OF A FEMALE is directed by Barry Mahon who achieved notoriety for directing Errol Flynn’s last movie CUBAN REBEL GIRLS in 1959. By today’s standards, even with the exposed female flesh, 1,000 SHAPES would rate a PG-13. There is an overall air of gentle civility between the participants involved which is disarming and certainly reminds us of how interaction between men and women have changed during the past 47 years. Oh yes, there is a set of bongo drums in an artists’ studio to provide that proper bohemian touch. During an encore viewing, try clicking the ‘mute’ button and play a Dave Brubeck LP on the record player.