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Innocence Unprotected

Innocence Unprotected Movie Review
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"Innocence Unprotected," directed by Dusan Makavejev of Yugoslavia, is one of the most delightful films I've ever seen, and one of the hardest to describe: It's funny, tragic, filled at one moment with black humor and at the next with disarming naivete and in form and style totally original.

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I saw it a week ago in a preview, and since then I've engaged in three or four unsuccessful attempts to describe it. Imagine if you will, a film that includes the entire footage of the first Serbian language talkie (produced by an anti-Nazi underground in 1942). Imagine that this film is a melodrama about an orphan girl, a cruel stepmother, her sadistic lover and a heroic acrobat.

Imagine that 25 years later a film was made about the people in this film. Imagine that it was done in a semi-documentary style incorporating color, black and white, wide screen, square screen, subtitles, flashbacks, old Hitler newsreels, picnics in graveyards, a man who suffered a fall and became precisely 4.5 cm shorter, and the acrobat standing on his head on the seat of a unicycle whose wheel is balanced on the wheel of another unicycle balanced by its seat on a tall pole.

Imagine, in addition, that the 1942 film and the 1967 film both had the same name: "Innocence Unprotected." That the 1942 stars were not totally aware of the approach the 1967 director was taking. That underlying their optimism there is a hint of tragedy. That the film pretends to be a documentary, but in fact has a dramatic structure that only becomes apparent at the end. And that people quite seriously say things like: "Gentlemen, I assure you the entire Yugoslavian cinema came out of my navel. In fact, I have made certain inquiries, and I am in a position to state positively that the entire Bulgarian cinema came out of my navel as well."

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As you can see, the movie indeed resists being written about. More than any director since Jean-Luc Godard, Makavejev is able to leap nimbly back and forth over the line dividing a film from reality. This is a film within a film, but it's also a film about a film that has a film within it. That may sound nonsensical, but I mean it literally. Makavejev works in a world of his own.

The film won the Gold Hugo in the 1968 Chicago Film Festival.

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