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19.12.08

Sweet Movie (1974)



Director: Dusan Makavejev
Starring: Carol Laure, John Vernon, Anna Prucnal
Unrated 98 minutes
Released by Criterion

Dusan Makavejev's Sweet Movie has been made legendary by film academics and intellectuals who see this film as a profound and devastating indictment of belief systems, governments, philosophies, and any other man-made social constructs which are devised to inhibit or oppress the inescapable animalistic nature of man. Or something like that. There are plenty of essays and analyses out there waiting to be read by folks who are interested in finding some deeper meaning in Makavejev's most infamous film, so I will not attempt to butt heads with the intellectual elite. I can, however, describe my feelings about this film, finally watched after years of reading countless reviews which mostly praised this film's savage genius.

It's icky.

Golden penises. Golden showers. Naked women writhing in chocolate. Sex in tubs of sugar. Vomiting. Food fights. Spitting. Singing. Footage of the Katyn Forest Massacre. People slathered with human excrement. Some more singing. There is a plot, but it's little more than an excuse for Makavejev to place star Carol Laure in one very unsanitary situation after another, which get increasingly weirder and harder to watch as the film rolls on.

I won't question Makavejev's intelligence, or criticize his willingness to push cinema into uncharted territory. That said, Sweet Movie comes off as misguided and more than a little juvenile. Its message, or at least what I think is its message, is overshadowed by its desire to shock and repulse the viewer. It is not unlike a bright teenager who feels the need to join a satanic cult or get their face tattooed just to show their parents that they are free and capable of making their own decisions. While you appreciate the kid's desire to demonstrate their independence, their actions leave you scratching your head all the same. Makavejev sets out to repulse and he succeeds, but not without revealing his inability to create a film which cannot get its point across without resorting to cheap shock tactics. You could edit these scenes out of the film, but then there would be next to nothing left.

You are probably better off reading about this movie than actually watching it. If you do decide to experience Sweet Movie, I would recommend doing so on an empty stomach and with plenty of Lysol handy.

2.5 out of 5. 

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