Sweet Movie (1974)

Written and Directed by Dusan Makavajev (Yugoslavia)

Starring Carole Laure, John Vernon

Cinematography by Pierre Lhomme

I was surprised to learn from a DVD interview with director Dusan Makavajev that he values his screenplay while shooting and aims to stick to it, rather than relying mainly on improvisation. Looking back on the film now, however, it seems obvious that the scenes were in fact planned and choreographed. Unlike a John Waters or Andy Warhol film, which share certain elements of low-budget shock value, Sweet Movie is carefully layered with cultural references and allegory, allowing it to transcend the exploitation genre.

The cinematography is anything but haphazard; actors’ faces are well-lit (especially Carole Laure), and colors are both bold and compositionally balanced, with deep-focus mise-en-scenes displayed in crisp detail. Whereas a John Waters movie is about filth, Sweet Movie uses filth (non-simulated sexual acts involving children, urination, defecation, vomiting, breastfeeding between adults, castration, ritualistic killing with sugar and candy, actual footage of Nazi war crimes) to say something about women as capitalist commodities and as modern revolutionary figures. John Waters’ films are campy, but Makavajev is decidedly in the tradition of thought-provoking absurdism and social satire. I don’t intend to value one over the other (both directors have been lambasted by most critics anyway), but I do think that Makavajev offers a greater reward to that rare audience member who can stomach a second or even third viewing.

~ by Daniel N. Goldberg on June 6, 2011.

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