SWEET MOVIE (1974) – The Dungeon Review!

The 1960s and the 1970s was such an exciting time for film. Film makers were pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable; the results of which were films like Sweet Movie. A film as whimsical, humorous and sexy as it is perverse, vile, and inaccessible. A Yugoslavian film that seems to be best known for its “banquet” scene (which I will speak more on later) than its dreamy beauty and uniqueness. There is no doubt with or without its infamously nasty scene Sweet Movie will appeal to a limited portion of the population. I now count myself among that populace; Sweet Movie is a film I intend to revisit again.

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If I had to summarize Sweet Movie in one sentence I would say it is the story of two women’s peculiar adventures through sexual liberation. The two stories run simultaneously and are otherwise unrelated. The film opens with a virgin beauty pageant sponsored by a chastity belt company run by Ms. Martha. The contest comes complete with a gynecological exam! The winner not only receives the prestigious (?!) title of Miss Virgin but she gets to marry Ms. Martha’s wealthy son Mr. Kapital. The winner is Mademoiselle Canada whose stunningly beautiful hymen is like a perfect little rosebud. Miss Canada and her new husband embark on their honeymoon. Mr. Kapital a germaphobe disinfects himself and his new bride; but what he does next causes her to scream in horror. Meanwhile an odd looking boat called “Survivor” passes by a harbor manned or more accurately wo-manned by Anna Planeta. The spunky Captain Anna has attracted the eye of a handsome young Potemkin sailor. The sailor eventually finds his way aboard and the two engage in some public fornication. In full view of all they pass Anna loudly exudes her pleasure with such utterances as “Oh Fascination” and “Optimistic Tragedy“. Um…Optimistic tragedy?! When we meet Mademoiselle Canada again it would seem her marriage is off to a bad start. She ends up in an empty milk silo with a well built and well hung black man. The man, who jumps rope naked, engages her in an odd conversation, is given a hand job and than packs Miss Canada in a suitcase and sends her away. On Anna Planeta’s vessel all appears to be well.

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Spliced between the two stories is grim war footage of people scavenging corpses for money and teaching infants gymnastics. I assume there was a political message intended although I am not clear what it was. I don’t know much about Yugoslavia but I know it has gone through some major changes between World War II and when this film was made in 1974. The Democratic Federal Yugoslavia became the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia under a communist government and in the 60s it was renamed The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Perhaps it was just director Dusan Makavejev giving the government and the censors the finger.

Sweet Movie

Mademoiselle Canada is traumatized after a lover gets his penis stuck inside her and medical help is required to wedge them apart. Assumingly, she had remained a virgin up to this point. The film takes a bit of a Marquis de Sade-esque turn. This is where the more unsavory stuff comes into play. There are two scenes in Sweet Movie that are going to challenge even seasoned viewer’s sensibilities. We will start with the “banquet” scene. Miss Canada ends up with a group of people with less than hygienic habits. A food fight breaks out and soon the group is vomiting on one another drinking each other’s piss and they top that off with a shitting contest. I hope these actors were paid well. I won’t lie; it was rather nauseating. At least these are adults voluntarily doing ugly shit to each other. Sensibility challenger number two is a scene involving pre-teen boys. Anna Planeta lures a group of boys onto her boat and invites them into the candy room. The candy room is just what it sounds like; a monstrous bed/vat of sugar sits in the middle of the room and the walls are lined with shelf after shelf of every candy you could imagine. After filling themselves greedy with treats the boys flake out while Captain Anna, strips, dances and flirts. Anna does a little more than flirt however and the scene lingers to the point of discomfort.

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Beautiful French Canadian Carole Laure who plays Miss Canada barely speaks a word and spends much of her time looking a little like a deer caught in headlights but she certainly looks good doing it. The lovely and spunky Anna Prucnal who plays Anna Planeta is just a whole lot of fun. Pierre Clémenti who plays the Potemkin Sailor is also a delight. All the other roles are fairly fleeting but Jane Mallett who plays Ms. Martha the owner of the chastity belt company had some priceless expressions that really cracked me up and her little “dance” had me roaring. John Vernon who plays her son Mr. Kapital leaves a lasting impression as the obnoxious, germaphobic, Karl Marx pipe-smoking oil baron. Director Dusan Makavejev is clearly looking to push the limits of political and sexual expression and this he definitely achieves. Sweet Movie is a strange, sexy, feverish, lewd, rude and often hilarious trip. The whole thing has this dreamy surrealness to it that I found very appealing. Sex in sugar, Chocolate masturbation, candy boats that lure boys and sailors, infantilism, virgin beauty pageants and hymens like rosebuds; they just don’t make them like this anymore. Sweet Movie is one of a kind and comes highly recommended for adventurous types.

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Dusan Makavejev

Starring: Carole Laure, Pierre Clémenti, Anna Prucnal, Sami Frey, Jane Mallett, Roy Callender, John Vernon

13 Responses to “SWEET MOVIE (1974) – The Dungeon Review!”

  1. conradw58 Says:

    One of those films that you never forget.It’s funny,disturbing,weird and wonderful. I am particularly fond of Anne Lonneberg’s song “Is There Life On The Earth” !

  2. This one’s just a little easier to find than Makavejev’s WR: MYSTERIES OF THE ORGANISM, which I finally got to catch on Hulu’s Free Criterion weekend.

  3. I saw this in an old issue of Sight & Sound. I was intrigued but not enough to want to buy a copy. Your review does a better job explaining what the film’s actually like. Definitely one to rent.

  4. It’s disturbing to realize I’ve been waiting almost 40 years to watch some of these movies. But between Netflix, YouTube, cable, Entertainmart, Independent Records, and the DVD shelves of pawn shops and thrift stores (and the Library!), we live in a wonderful age for catching up with obscure titles.

  5. The war footage actually forced the movie’s “Anna” into exile from Poland for years. It’s footage of the Nazis uncovering a mass grave of Poles that the Russians had exterminated. Obviously the Soviet Union wasn’t too keen on having their dirty work publicized, and denied the footage’s existence for years (until 2010(!)).

    For the banquet scene, they weren’t “actors” in the strictest sense.. It was Otto Muehl and members of his commune, and that was their schtick. They’d break you down to join in.

    Behind the scenes, that scene caused Carole Laure to quit the film, causing the creation of that whole Marx boat storyline.

    Quite possibly my favorite train wreck film.

    http://shenanitims.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/off-season-reviews-sweet-movie-1974/

    • I always watch the special features on dvds…especially Criterion but I just couldn’t get to it this time around…I am sure this review would have benefitted from some of those little factoids. Thanks for the link.

  6. This movie is why I love DVD and Blu-Ray. They keep films like this alive for us to discover…I didn’t love it but thought it was a fascinating document of a wild time in film!

    • Makavejev is something else! I enjoyed Sweet Movie enough to rent WR: Mysteries of the Organism which I personally enjoyed a touch more…but I enjoyed the hell out of both. Oh yes! Thank Satan for DVD!! When I think of the massive number of foreign films I would have missed out on otherwise…

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