Canada / France / West Germany 1974
Reviewed By-Kit Gavin Directed by Dusan Makajev Starring Carole Laure, Pierre Clementi, Anna Prucnal, and John Vernon Released through: Movie Star [Brazil] NTSC Region 0
The movie opens with a psudo-Bjork like singer, singing presumably in Slav, a totally surreal song which gives some idea of events yet to come. Having warbled through her song, the "action" cuts to the Miss Monde 1984 competition. The Miss Monde contest is presided over by Mrs. Martha Alplanalpe, the ugly aged widow of a leading supplier of pharmaceuticals and also president of the Chastity Belt Foundation. However, when the contestants arrive on stage, they are made to sit and be examined by a gynocologist, Dr. Mittlefinger, to prove that their virginity is in fact still fully intact. After a few of the contestants appear on stage, including a rather aggressive Miss Yugoslavia who attacks everyone on stage, we meet the ravishing Miss Canada [Laure] who arrives on stage, not wearing any underwear. Whilst inspecting her hymen for whether or not it is still intact, the doctor is bedazzled by the beauty of her vagina which illuminates his face Ė describing it as "a rose bud".
However, the nameless winner of the contest, the aforementioned Miss Canada realises that her prize is to be married off to Mr. Dollars [Vernon], the wealthy Texan billionaire son of Mrs Alpanalpe worth $50 billion. Flying to their home, in a plain bearing the message "Happy Forever", Mr. Dollars shows his newlywed bride, his dreams of draining Niagara Falls, and his vast expanse of milk factories. Meanwhile, in Amsterdam, along the canals, a boat with a massive head of Karl Marx on the front on itís front, rides down the canals. Back in Canada, Mr Dollars and his virgin bride prepare to consummate their marriage. Lying on the bed, with a cluster of lights covering her private parts, the hyper clean and impotent Mr Dollars prepares himself. He then makes his way to his bride, and starts to disinfect her by wiping her down with antiseptic before removing his boxer shorts. His bride screams when she sees his penis, semi erect and painted gold (!), before Mr Dollars proceeds to piss all over her.
Not unsurprisingly disappointed with his beautiful brideís distaste at being pissed on on her wedding night, Mr Dollars and his mother try to drown his bride in the swimming pool before bestowing her in the care of Jeremiah, an enormous black body builder who keeps her prisoner in a giant milk bottle. Later, locked up in a suitcase, Miss Monde is sent, naked, to Paris after having been dumped at the airport by Jeremiah. However, trying to escape from the suitcase, she realises where she is with just her head popping out of the suitcase. Later she escapes, and settles with a movie star in the Eiffel Tower, and having lost her virginity which sends her into a state of shock, she is bundled into a wheelbarrow, bound for Vienna, where she encounters a bizarre commune which (then) was supposedly for real called the Therapie Komune where there are food fights, crapping contests and scatological body painting, frequent urination and even breast feeding all attended by infantilic adult babies. She is later killed by accident, naked, in an enormous vat of molten chocolate, whilst filming a TV commercial.
Meanwhile, in Amsterdam, one of the survivors of "the Revolution", a captain [Prucal] is sailing down the canals in her riverboat with Karl Marxís head as the figure head, laden with sugar, whilst being persued by a sailor from the Battleship Potemkin [from Russia, some 70 years before!]. Embarking on affair with the sailor, the two of them end up making love in an enormous vat of sugar before the girl ends up killing the sailor, mixes his blood with the sugar.
SWEET MOVIE is probably best described as a surreal exercise in abstract cinema Ė populated with some alternately truly bizarre, deeply disturbing and grotesque images. Also there is more male frontal nudity than most viewers which most viewers will enjoy seeing, the most erotic it gets is Laure caressing a penis, the rest tend to be urinating or more than you would expect to see in a movie given a general release, as the term "mainstream" would be grossly inaccurate when describing SWEET MOVIE. The movie mixes comedy with shockingly memorable images, from close-ups of pissing, a virtually naked woman dressed only in a white slip seducing pre-teenage boys, defecation [much like, and predating, Pasoliniís infamous SALO: LE 120 GIONATE DI SODOMA], blended in uneasily with some real life footage of atrocities in Russia, lots of sugar and chocolate, and more. Excessive would be an understatement here!!
The film is essentially meant to be the story of two women, in a very disjointed and bizarre fashion, however it is clear also that the film is an attempt by director Dusan Makajev to make some sort of message to his audience about Miss Mondeís lack of freedom despite being wed to the image of Capitalism and how Communism is unjust, and is essentially a lie set out to mislead and misguide people. There are other messages along the way, some of which are as blatant, others which will have even the most intelligent viewer scratching their head in bewilderment at what the director is trying to convey in what is being shown on screen.
The film is clearly trying to make numerous statements, but it is sometimes so devoid of characterisation or sense, it will simply end up confusing. With itís perverse imagery and mostly damaged, and warped characters, it is an uneven and rocky experience. Parallels might be drawn between truly avant garde auteur directors suchs as Terry Gilliam, Lars Von Trier, or Alejandro Jodorowsky but this film is nothing like these directors work, and maybe that is why the director, after having completed this film, didnít make another film (other than a segment in the barely released WET DREAMS) for another 7 years before making THE COCA COLA KID with Eric Roberts. The Yugoslav director apparently used the trial of Dean Corll, a Texan candy manufacturer and child murderer as an inspiration and metaphor behind the making of the film.
Without doubt, the film is hugely self indulgent on the part of the director, and no doubt he is trying to push down barriers of free speech as much as make abject statements about the world we live in. Jack Nicholson described it as "the most beautiful film on politics ever made". HmmmÖ maybe he was on something when he made such a sweeping statement. The film is truly shocking and memorable experience, though many will dismiss it due to misunderstanding or seeing it as wallowing in itís own self importance.
Although for the most part there is minimal characterisation, and the actors playing roles which for the most part are merely ciphers to events going on on-screen, part of the unusual and bizarre imagery of the path which the director has chosen to take us down, popular Canadian singer Carole Laure, in one of her first films as Miss Monde impresses in the vulnerability she brings to the role. Wide eyed and innocent, beautiful and naVve at the start, she plays her role with great sympathy as she is continually manhandled and mistreated by those around her, barely conscious towards the end of her journey in this film before finally meeting her demise, by accident, in a huge vat of chocolate. In a small role, as the seemingly out of time role of the sailor from the Battleship Potemkin, is Pierre Clementi, who appeared in numerous French arthouse movies, an odd selection and piece of casting. Likewise, in essentially a cameo role, it is amusing to see John Vernon, who would appear in low budget exploiters starring Linda Blair in the 80ís and the Dean in National Lampoons classic Animal House and opposite Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josie Wales, made of his role when he read the script after having worked with Lee Marvin in the classic Point Blank.
Certainly not a film for anyone, even though it has itís fair share of champions, and still to this day remains unavailable in the United Kingdom, having been rejected outright by the BBFC in the mid-70ís, and has been burdened with being poorly received upon release more than likely due the extreme imagery and the amount of fetishism and bizarre behaviour which takes place on screen as well as poor distribution afterwards. The film is challenging, trippy and offbeat to an extreme that goes beyond the pale. Some of the activities, and perverse exploits, the scenes of pissing, vomiting, etc will prove difficult no doubt for even those with the hardiest of stomachs. The term "mind fuck" would be perfect when describing this pseudo-intellectual, and shocking yet considerably thought provoking work.
Releasing the film, Movie Star have used a French print for the film, which, as the film was shot in numerous languages, it is not possible to define what would be a suitable or correct language version to see this film in, as each one would be dubbed in some way or another. It is unusual to hear John Vernon dubbed into French, rather than to hear his familiar dry nasal voice, but no matter. The print has burnt in French subtitles during the songs, which sometimes do not coincide with the small, unobtrusive English subtitles say. The film has been presented letterboxed at approx 1:66:1 and not in 4x3 as is suggested on the packaging. There doesnít seem to be information missing on the sides of the film so I presume that it is in the correct aspect ratio. I believe an English language version of the film exists, it would have been nice to see that on here, but as it is a Brazilian DVD, it cannot be expected, and thankfully at Movie Star, English is available amongst the subtitle selections. Audio and video are clean and clear, and this is probably as the film looked when it was first released to unsuspecting world audiences in 1974. Other than the briefest of synopses, there are no other extras to be found on the disc.
Kit and Cinema Nocturna would like to dedicate this review to the memory of the recently deceased Canadian-born actor John Vernon (1932-2005).
Video: 3.5 BITCH SLAPS Extras: 0 BITCH SLAPS Story: 2.5 BITCH SLAPS Overall: 3 BITCH SLAPS
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