Sunday, October 24, 2010

Montenegro (Dusan Makavejev, 1981) -- B+

Following his exile from Yugoslavia and the international controversy of his masterwork Sweet Movie, Dusan Makavejev was relegated to a status most great artists find themselves when met with social displacement and political oppression: hiatus. He finally returned to filmmaking in 1981, seven years after his previous film, with Montenegro, more narratively linear and conservative, but still retaining that Makavejev-touch: humor, sex, death, and politics - told with a documentarian's eye for peculiarity in human behavior, desire, and action. Marilyn (Susan Anspach) is a well-to-do fashion designer living in Sweden, her husband Martin (Erland Josephson) and kids in tow. Makavejev sets up her bourgeois anxieties through a satirical opening song and reverie, her standing at the edge of a pier gazing out onto the lake. He finds her silly, unreasonable, and overprivileged, poking fun at the Hollywood film's Romanticization of upper middle-class depression. Nevertheless, her ennui is initially alleviated by the prospect of flying to Brazil with her husband, only to be detained at the airport for carrying a pair of garden shears (another luxury tool). There, she crosses paths with a few Yugoslavian immigrants, is taken back to their freer, less constrained style of living, and becomes the dreaded exoticist, using another culture to repudiate her own. It turns out, though, that this escapade is something she just needs to "get out of her system," a disingenuous foray into sex and "love" uninhibited by domestic or financial responsibility. Her sexual fireworks with the titular character (Svetozar Cvetkovic) result in his inexplicable death, the cross-cutting between separate parties in different socio-cultural realms indicative of her intrusion, and use of the opposing culture not to be part of a commune, but feel rehabilitated self-worth. This form of imperialistic drive amongst the wealthy is, for Makavejev, an inexcusable offense, and another fascinating link in his cinema, devoted to questioning the powers that be, either capitalistic or fascistic.

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