Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
Dusan Makavejev's "Sweet Movie" begins with what looks like a garden-variety National Lampoon function (an oil millionaire named Mr. Kapital is holding a global beauty contest to select himself a virgin bride) and develops into one of the most challenging, shocking and provocative films of recent years. Especially in its final 45 minutes, the movie presents almost pure experience. Makavejev shows us a commune where the members collectively immerse themselves in the fundamental processes of the body: eating, drinking, suckling, sex, vomiting, urinating, defecating, touching, screaming, hitting, caressing.
Makavejev doesn't exploit this material -- "Sweet Movie" is anything but a sex film -- but uses it to confront us in a very unsettling way. The unasked questions behind his film seem to be: Well, we're all human, aren't we? This is what we are and what we do. What do you think of these people? You go to the movies to be entertained by scenes of people killing each other, you watch wars on TV -- do the basic bodily processes of these people offend you?
Yes, they do, in a peculiar sense. Makavejev has an aggressive sense of texture and juxtaposition, and when he shows us characters making love in tons of sugar or writhing in a vat of chocolate, our sensual reactions are short-circuited. When one of the characters is first made love to in sugar, then stabbed to death so his blood stains the sugar and makes it sticky, we're shocked and disquieted: Makavejev has made the movie violence more real, drawn our attention to the way we're experiencing it, by presenting it in such an unexpected context. This is a movie we can't be passive about. And although we can hate it, we can't walk out of it.
I didn't hate it, although it affected me in bewildering and sometimes unpleasant ways. I didn't find it a success, but I found it an audacious attempt, and it's filled with images impossible to forget. Makavejev's work ("Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator," "Innocence Unprotected," "WR: Mysteries of the Organism") juxtaposes his subjects in such ways that they seem rotated several degrees from the real world. He considers Marxism, sex, violence, capitalism, political crimes and bizarre methods of personal contact in a way so radical and original that his movies are subversive of our everyday assumptions. He's like a Bosch, making connections through hallucinations, deciding for himself what things look like.