Haunted Honeymoon

Film Review: Sweet Movie (1974)

SYNOPSIS:

No synopsis can do this movie justice, but it basically boils down to a bunch of ‘radical’ students misbehaving on camera, with the the end result being passed off as an experimental art piece. It’s a psycho-sexual ‘comedy’ that wallows in shattered taboos, and absurdist, free-form vignettes.

REVIEW:

Directed by: Dusan Makevejev
Starring: Carole Laure; John Vernon

The film opens on a live TV show in which several women compete for the title of Miss World. The lucky winner also gets to marry a Texas oil billionaire (played by cinematic shit heap, John Vernon). The women are inspected by a world famous gynecologist who is presented by the host as “Dr. Metinger, brilliant master of deep insights… and even deeper insights. Innovative explorer of the abysses of the human body and soul”. Miss Congo, an exhibitionistic black woman, hops onto the the doc’s chair and rubs his beard with her foot while he gives her a thorough examination. Miss Southern Rhodesia gets violent and attacks the doctor and the TV host, beating the crap out of them both. Then it’s the turn of Miss Canada (Carole Laure), whose p*ssy radiates a golden glow. And she’s the clear winner of the competition. This whole sequence can be read as an interesting foretaste to the vulgarities which would eventually become part and parcel of modern-day reality TV in which everything is transformed into a crude competition with its ‘drama’ and dramatic pauses for the public to judge.

Next up, a boat floats along the canal, and we get a silly folk tune that crops up time and again throughout the film. The boat has been renovated in a strange kind of 70s Eastern European ‘Pimp My Ride’ style, with colourful slogans and a huge plaster cast of Karl Marx’s head attached to the bow. It looks like a floating art exhibit created by hippies, and reminded me of Fredric Hobbs’ creations for his films, like the ‘Trojan Horse’ car in Troika, for example.

Miss Canada – now Miss World – is taken up in a helicopter ride with her cowboy billionaire husband. They hover above Niagara Falls and a blank graveyard. “My empire!” he shouts. He lights up his tobacco pipe and claims that the face on the front of it is Karl Marx, but the joke is that it’s actually Lenin’s face (hilarious, no?). They arrive at his estate, and the cowboy introduces his bride to the clingers-on as “a lady of the house, a personal jewel, but above all a purified sanitation system for unchecked waste”. Years of marital bliss ahead of them, no doubt. That night, cowboy takes wifey to bed, but when he gets out his gold-plated cock she screams. So he takes a leak on her instead.

The boat sails on down the canal where a young sailor runs along beside it and tries to win the affections of the female captain by pissing in the water and wiggling his cock at her like some socially backward oddball. He climbs on board and tells her he’s starving for sex. She replies “Those who starve know how to make love”. Tell that to Keith Chegwin. The sailor and the captain have sex on the boat, and she seems delighted at being f*cked by “an authentic sexual proletarian!” And the boat sails on…

Meanwhile, Miss World regrets marrying the billionaire. She is carried up into a bizarre room in a milk tower above the city by a big black guy called Jeremiah. They have some sexy fun time together (“See this chocolate complexion? Try it”). What follows is a hilarious scene where she wanks him off; when the camera closes in on his face, it’s impossible to tell whether he’s having an orgasm or a hyperventilating panic attack. Jeremiah bundles her into his suitcase and smuggles her into Paris.

Real archive footage is inserted into the film of mass graves being dug up for hundreds of dead bodies. A gravedigger props up one of the corpses, and the front of its skull has been smashed in. Others check the pockets in search of anything to identify the dead. By the looks of the scratchy black and white footage and the uniforms of the personel, this could be Soviet film stock recorded as evidence of Nazi atrocities in the wake of Barbarossa.

The film soon collapses into a revolting and pretentious shambles. Miss World arrives at a Paris commune and has sex with El Macho. She later regrets losing her virginity to him, and demonstrates this by breaking eggs onto her head in a symbolic gesture of her broken hymen. She attends a dinner which soon descends into a chimp’s tea party of the damned, and includes such past times as belching, vomiting, cock hugging, and someone getting his willy out to piss allover the table, and someone else thinking it a good idea to catch the stream of piss in his mouth. I’m not sure Karl Marx would approve. They dance around naked and shit in bowls whilst humming along to Beethoven’s glorious 9th. A typical student’s night in by the looks of it.

Back on the boat, meanwhile, the sailor and the blonde captain take a relaxing bath of sugar together with a pet mouse. “Permanant sugar” he purrs. She stabs him in the gut and plays with his blood, mixing it in with the sugar as if she’s creating some kind of macabre cake mixture. He laughs. Then dies.

Conceived as an experiment in psycho-liberation, Sweet Movie attempts to demonstrate the ideas of William Reich, the post-Freudian psychoanalyst who encouraged his readers to confront their subconscious states by engaging in lewd, primitive acts. Director Dusan Makevejev attempts to film this idea in a radical and literal way – to relate back to our primordial state as a form of therapy. Therefore, Makevejev rubs his viewers’ faces in sex, death, shit, and vomit in an attempt to make us feel better… Did it work for you? Nah, me neither. By watching this stuff, we’re supposed to confront our own repressed desires for a visceral awakening, but the end result is far too playful and insincere for it to work, thus undermining the whole premise of the film as it flits between comedy, farce, and shock tactics, barely gaining any ground in any of the themes it attempts to address. Makevejev’s earlier film, WR-Mysteries of The Organism (1967) was much more true to the source of Reich than this mess.

WR-Mysteries was the first film to legally show an erect penis in the UK, and Makevejev seems really proud of this and takes it up a few notches by having penises pop up allover the place in this film. But as a whole, the film is not as interesting or satirical as Bunuel, not as inventive or visually striking as Jodorowsky’s work, not as subversive as Pasolini or Marco Ferreri. It also lacks the dangerous edge of Juraj Jacubisko and the clever symbolism of Antonioni or Godard. Instead of holding true to a serious statement on society’s collective strait-jacket, the director seems to lose his nerve and resorts to childish shit-flicking antics. Today, the film is more regarded for its taboo-breaking spirit rather than its jumble of half-baked ideas.

Sweet Movie is cast with exhibitionistic bell-ends, the kind of crusty art types who drink herbal tea and who can’t wait to gang-up and shed their clothes and shit allover the place, because, like, they’re so radical and open-minded, man. Urgh, these people are full of shit, and this movie literally proves it! The kind of people whose efforts to raise awareness of what’s going on in the world leaves normal people running for the hills to escape their smell. And likewise, this film works in exactly the same way; it preaches to the converted, anti-capitalist, pro-commie lot, and sends normal moviegoers running for the nearest exit as the inherently silly acts and in-jokes clog up the system until it bursts, overflowing with cinematic sewage. Puking and pissing and shitting is not interesting. In fact, artistically, it’s right next door to monumental bellwastes like GG Allin who would punch his audience members in the face and spray them with diarrhea. The only difference is the guys in this film probably learned how to soil themselves in college.

Sweet Movie has had a history of censorship hassles in the UK; it was banned in 1975 with the BBFC claiming it “goes beyond the standards of taste which the Board is currently prepared to accept”. In 1978, Connoisseur Films were interested in submitting the film to the UK censors after secring the rights for distribution. However, James Ferman made it quite clear to the company that they shouldn’t waste their time or money as the film would only be rejected a second time, so the company backed off. A couple of years later, Lazer Films tried their luck. And much to their surprise the BBFC were willing to lift the ban. But the film wouldn’t make it through unscathed; the censors insisted on removing several sequences, including the entire scene in which a trio of men have a poop competition, the removal of some spread-eagle shots of Carole Laure in a tub of melted chocolate (the actress had also taken the film’s producers to court to have that scene removed – but these are no ordinary spread beaver shots; she’s covered in chocolate so you can’t really see anything). Also, the scene in which the cowboy billionaire urinates on Miss Canada was considered too explicit and degrading and had to go. The BBFC agreed that the cuts had essentially ruined the film, but they wouldn’t revise their decision. Lazer Films decided not to release it in its butchered form. Sweet Movie would probably be passed uncut nowadays, but no one has submitted it to the board since. And it remains unavailable on DVD.

Sweet Movie (1974)

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One Response to Film Review: Sweet Movie (1974)

  1. hi says:

    ” including the entire scene in which a trio of men have a poop competition”.
    Actually they are two men and one woman with very short air. She is a woman because when she stands up she has no penis. :)

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