Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dusan Makavejev: The Last Yugoslav

So the article about Yugoslav filmmaker Dusan Makavejev that I have been promising since July has finally been published in the print and web versions of this week's edition of The Nation.

Though I had to scrunch and smoosh to get it all in, I'm pretty happy with the piece. In particular, I was happy to get a chance to talk about a few things:

(1) The brilliance of Makavejev's first three feature films -- Man Is Not a Bird, Love Affair -- Or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator, and Innocence Unprotected -- which have been recently been rereleased for the first time on DVD as a set by Criterion.

Because they had not been released previously on DVD when I had to write the piece, I had to buy all three movies online as used VHS tapes. That alone should tell you how valuable this new collection is in tracing the arc of Makavejev's art.

(2) A chance to make the argument that WR: Mysteries of the Organism is a more audacious and satisfying film than Sweet Movie, which is a much more notorious though less intellectually adventurous film. I was also delighted to remind readers of Makavejev's trenchant critique of the absurd priapism of the American combination of violence and capitalism -- something that critics who have been transfixed by Makavejev's stinging critique of communism in that film usually omit or elide.

(3) An opportunity to reevaluate Makavejev's last full-length feature, Gorilla Bathes at Noon -- and argue for its excellence as a film and as a portrait of the exhaustion at the end of the Cold War that so animates WR and Sweet Movie. Particularly viewed on the cusp of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Gorilla Bathes at Noon is -- as I mention in the article -- a "portrait of Berlin as a filthy, cold and abandoned siege line of the Cold War." It is criminal that this film has not been released on DVD. I can only hope that my piece might urge that possibility on someone who can do it.


Thomas McGonigle said...

I liked your article in the Nation which I cam to by way of the German round-up. I watched all of Makavejev films as they came out, some many times and againn this week I was watching Love Affair and Innocence Unprotected...the last Berlin film seemed just a little off, slap-dash as a form of wife was asking what life was like in Bulgaria in the 60s and I showed her the early Makavejev for their physical reality... you might be interested in my little books THE CORPSE DREAM OF N. PETKOV and GOING TO PATCHOGUE which are partially rooted in truth to tell the montage of Makavejev

Lives in Washington DC said...

Thanks so much for the comment, Thomas! I'll check out the books...

Thomas McGonigle said...

Where should I start in your blog: how did you come to Yugoslavia or Serbia or...?

Lives in Washington DC said...

Hi Tom: Lived in Prague right after Velvet Revolution. Did reporting from Balkans in late 1990s.

Acai said...

Great article!
Thank you.