A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Sweet Movie (Dusan Makavejev, 1974)

Anna Prucnal in Sweet Movie
Miss Monde 1984/Miss Canada: Carole Laure
Potemkin Sailor: Pierre Clémenti
Capt. Anna Planeta: Anna Prucnal
El Macho: Sami Frey
Mrs. Abplanalpe: Jane Mallett
Jeremiah Muscle: Roy Callender
Mr. Kapital: John Vernon
Mama Communa: Marpessa Dawn

Director: Dusan Makavejev
Screenplay: France Gallagher, Dusan Makavejev, Martin Malina
Cinematography: Pierre Lhomme
Production design: Jocelyn Joly
Film editing: Yann Dedet
Music: Manos Hatzidakis

In the 1933 decision that lifted the ban in the United States on James Joyce's Ulysses, Judge John M. Woolsey dismissed the charges of obscenity, though he found that "in many places the effect of Ulysses on the reader undoubtedly is somewhat emetic." I've never found anything to be "emetic" in Ulysses, certainly not on the level of some of the more queasy moments in Dusan Makavejev's Sweet Movie, which exploits every orifice known to be possessed by human beings, especially in the orgiastic scenes featuring Otto Muehl's commune. As for obscenity, that lies in the eye of the beholder. To my mind, Sweet Movie dallies on the brink of it in the scene in which Anna Prucnal's Captain Anna, scantily clad to say the least, makes what appear to be sexual come-ons to a group of boys aboard her boat called Survival. At moments like this I snap out of the trance of make-believe into which art lures us, and into a realization that the boys in the scene are pre-pubescent actors. There's a layer of child sexual abuse in staging such a scene that I can't quite rise above. Beyond that, however, Sweet Movie does precisely what Makavejev wants it to: It surprises, startles, shocks, overturning most of our expectations of what a movie can and/or should show us. It's valuable for that reason alone. Whether it illuminates or provokes thought in its even-handed assault on both capitalism and communism is another question. It has begun to feel dated, as many avant-garde satires tend to do. But it's also done with a great deal of verve and chutzpah, which never really grow old.     

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