Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sweet Movie

Sweet Movie, full of unenlighted lunacy, is not really a film at all. It is a social disease.

- Jay Cocks, 1975

Sweet Movie [is] in effect the most concentrated work I know that follows out the idea that the way to assess the state of the world is to find out how it tastes (a sense modality not notably stressed by orthodox epistemologists but rather consigned to a corner of aesthetics) – which means both to find out how it tastes to you and how it tastes you, for example, to find out whether you and the world are disgusting to one another […]

The film attempts to extract hope – to claim to divine life after birth – from the very fact that we are capable of genuine disgust at the world; that our revoltedness is the chance for a cleansing revulsion; that we may purge ourselves by living rather than by killing, willing to visit hell if that is the direction to something beyond purgatory; that the fight for freedom continues to originate in the demands of our instincts, the chaotic cry of our nature, our cry to have a nature. It is a work powerful enough to encourage us to see again that the tyrant’s power continues to require our complicitous tyranny over ourselves.

- Stanley Cavell, 1979

Umm, hmmm how to do this one? Well let's start with the plot. There are two different stories being told in this movie:

Story #1 We start in 1984 where Miss Canada, played by Carole Laure, has just been crowned Miss World Virginity. The prize? A ton of money and marriage to the richest man in the world who happened to be the sponsor of the contest. You see the man, a dairy owner (milk is pure you see), (John Vernon of Animal House fame) is tired of catching things from the prostitutes he visits and has decided he must marry a pure woman in order to avoid any future diseases. Unfortunately his mind is not pure and the wedding night involves some kinks that are just too much for Miss Canada and she freaks out and wants to leave. She his held against her will and eventually an employee who lives in a water tower is supposed to kill her. More drama ensues and Miss Canada ends up stuffed inside a suitcase and put on a plane where she ends up in Paris. She hooks up with a Latin singer on the Eiffel Tower, but this does not end well for our poor girl either and eventually she joins a commune. This commune, full of people with interests in bodily functions, welcomes our girl, and she seems to have finally found a home.

Story #2 A woman named Anna, (Anna Prucnal) who also happens to be a radical, is steering a large boat filled with candy down a river. A wandering sailor (Pierre Clementi) comes aboard and they become lovers. There is a large hanging platform full of sugar that becomes a bed, a mouse, some murdering, a very naughty dance in front of school boys, some yummy looking candy, and maybe a serial killer.

These stories take place simultaneously and are interspersed with some very disturbing scenes involving autopsies, experiments involving babies, and mass graves which are all taken from footage of real incidents.

I watched this movie last March and I didn't write about it then because I wasn't sure if I could. I didn't understand what the movie was trying to say although it was obvious that the director was trying to say something. I didn't even know if I had enjoyed it. I knew that I had enjoyed the performances, especially Carole Laure. I liked the photography, the music, and I think I laughed where I was supposed to laugh. And I was definitely shocked at the shocking bits and there are plenty of them. But this damn movie has been in my head for the last year and I can't get it out!

Lorraine Mortimer has written a book about the director, Dusan Makavejev, and you can find an excerpt from the book which discusses this movie far better than I could ever hope to at this site. The quotes at the top are from that site as well.

Should you watch this movie? Yes, if you don't mind seeing some very disturbing imagery and if you don't mind having your brain challenged, I say definitely watch the movie. If you're looking for a popcorn, mindless entertainment, fun way to spend a few hours then skip this one.

1 comment:

katia said...

Dusan Makavejev’s “Sweet Movie”/SWM (1976) is about two irreconcilable social strata our specie is fatally polarized on (paralyzed) – rich and poor (strong and weak, leaders and followers, deciders and the docile or the rebellious), about their psychology, so different and so unbreakably linked, and about their respective madness as a result of their permanent struggle and the impossibility of their unification. In other words, SWM is a film about the tragic impossibility of a real democracy in a too proud age of formal democracy. Makavejev analyzes two types of violence (that of the rich and that of the poor), coming as a consequence of the impossibility of a reconciliation between those on top and those on the bottom of the social hierarchy. According to the film, the violence of the wealthy (sovereigns) against the poor (the dependent ones) – triggers violence of the poor that sometimes surpasses that of the wealthy in its intensity and meaninglessness. By depicting the destiny of two protagonists, one with a conformist position towards the rich (Miss World, dreaming to exchange her virginity for marriage with a billionaire), and the other with a revolutionary position and sweet dream about a militant liberation of humankind (Anna Planeta moving about Europe on a ship with a giant smiling and crying figurehead of Karl Marx), Makavejev rejects the both attempts to solve the problem of inequality and injustice as sentimental and inadequate. While Miss World personifies the common superstitious idea that the poor can find life on the outskirts of wealth (in a condition that they will be persistent: hard working, in their efforts to get closer to its center), Anna Planeta personifies the two historical trends of rebellious resistance – the Soviet “socialist” (under the banner of Communism) and Western mass culture with its consumerism, freedom of sailing sales, pseudo-prosperity, sexual liberation and entertainment (as a “pragmatic” mini-Communism “equalizing” rich and poor in the utopia of general porous-prosperity). Makavejev’s directorial style in SWM is unique by a semantic distance between the intentional “juiciness” of his visual images and their meaning. Makavejev is a shock therapist of viewers’ blunted perception of the reality as a way to awaken their cognition. His aesthetic canon can be defined as anti-propaganda aesthetics, as a masterful undoing of what ideological propaganda, be it “socialist” or pseudo-democratic has done to human thinking. By Victor Enyutin