Opens with a sexologist talking to us from his office, then flashes of sex-oriented drawings amidst the credits, finally easing us into the story of the switchboard operator. She’s stalked at work by an annoying messenger, starts dating a sanitation worker. But we know how this will end, because documentary-style scenes keep cutting in, of the police finding her body in a water tower, and her autopsy. She gets pregnant, is unhappy with her situation with the exterminator, he finally kills her, as we know he will.
Makavejev made this a few years before Mysteries of the Organism, and I’m pretty sure I liked this one better, though I’m no huge fan of either.
Despite such genre-flouting contradictions, Makavejev’s mix-and-match aesthetic creates visual and thematic harmony rather than Dadaist discord. In the most memorable sequence, a lovely shot of Izabela’s bare buttocks is graphically matched to eggs and then a mound of flour, into which a yolk is dropped, followed by images of hands mixing and kneading strudel pastry, all set to Verdi.
We soon become aware of his fascination with the mythology of society, a mythology expressed through media and technology. Makavejev uses the images of mass culture as background for a straightforward story about two luckless people. The film illustrates McLuhan’s idea that man becomes the reproductive organ of the technological world.
[Isabella] smilingly telling him to come through to the bedroom because “there’s a good program on television.” It turns out to be Vertov’s 1931 Enthusiasm, specifically the scenes of churches being toppled by the crowds which are themselves taken from Esther Shub’s The Fall of the Romanovs. Thus we have a fictional couple watching a documentary within a documentary as a form of seduction: the cinematically informed viewer is thus seduced three times over. “It’s more intimate” this way, Isabella suggests, resting her head on Ahmed’s shoulder as they watch Vertov.
Unfortunately I returned this before I could get screen captures.
Lots of new-age philosophy collides with commentary on communist Yugoslavia in a way that doesn’t make much sense but involves much nudity.
Seems like this would be a fun movie, but I’m alarmed to say that I enjoyed watching critically-derided El Topo a second time more than I enjoyed seeing this acclaimed masterpiece once. This felt like a dated study or presentation, an essay of some sort. Ugly, non-sexy nude scenes in ugly, non-sexy locations, stock or documentary footage, handheld graininess and a bunch of stuff I didn’t understand. I must have missed a lot… didn’t check out Raymond Durgnat’s mash-up commentary or J. Rosenbaum’s booklet essay, so I don’t know what to do with this one, other than to compare it unfavorably to Jodorowsky and Underground and maybe rent Sweet Movie sometime to give the filmmaker another chance. Senses of Cinema: “Makavejev’s stated aim in Sweet Movie was to combine Eisensteinian montage with Buñuelian imagery.”
The film starts out talking about Wilhelm Reich, a therapist whose methods didn’t make much sense to me… his life, his followers and family, and how he was mistreated and ultimately died in prison. Blends into a tale of two women (roommates) and their chosen lovers and sexual politics. One of them is dating a stand-in for Lenin, an ice skater who finally beheads her and then sings a nice song to close out the film.
SoC: “The discontent of the New Wave auteurs was often toward the construction of fixed meanings through the approved systems of film language: Socialist Realism, Left-approved ‘orthodox’ Neo-Realism after 1948, wartime propaganda. Film should remain open to reality, be an aspect of that reality, and so incorporate the paradoxical, the contradictory, the ambiguous. In the East Bloc, this was a return of the repressed: the bourgeois “mystification” and dissembling that A. A. Zhdanov had railed against in 1935 at the First Soviet Writers’ Congress and the establishment of Socialist Realism. New Wave films should be, in Umberto Eco’s term, ‘Open Works’.”