Back sometime in the late ’80s, when I was just a kid who taped and traded horror/ gore/ exploitation video tapes through the mail with other weirdos in the country, I requested a copy of Jess Franco’s Faceless from someone. When I received it, it had about two thirds of another movie on the tape after it. It was called The Sweet Movie. I had never heard of it and didn’t know what to expect, however what I viewed baffled, intrigued and revolted me.
Many years later I actually got to see a complete version of it, and after all of this time and all the weird movies I’ve watched, it’s still one of the weirdest.
Anyone who’s taken a college class on art films know that there are a lot of weird films out there, and most of them are crap. Pretentious, thrown together supposedly disturbing images, fast cuts, offbeat narrative, out of focus shots, ridiculous symbolism – there are a lot of tricks that hacks use to try to make you think they are making something deep- “art”. But for every person who can actually come up with something talented and interesting (such as Alejandro Jodorowsky or even David Lynch) there are a ton of bullshit peddlers slinging wank.
While The Sweet Movie is definitely weird- an art film, it’s not untalented drivel. It has some wank to it, some quite overbearing symbolism and weirdness for weirdness’ sake (and gratuitous ‘disturbing’ imagery), but it truly is artistic as well, and is very well put together. The cinematography is very nice, the acting decent, production fairly lush. It actually does make me think a little of something Jodorowsky would do. But it’s also batshit crazy.
Unlike some art films, there is a story to it- two stories, actually. It starts out at a sort of beauty pagent, where a gynecologist unicycles out and a creepy old woman extoles the virtues of virginity. The beauty pagent is a contest to see who is the purest virgin in the world. After examining Miss Canada’s crotch (which glows like the trunk in Repo Man and the briefcase in Pulp Fiction), the gynecologist proclaims her the winner, and she gets to marry a rich Texas businessman stereotype. Their honeymoon does not go quite as well as she would have liked, and she ends up getting abducted by a massively built black man who takes her into a water tower shaped like a giant jug of milk, stuffs her into a suitcase, strips down, and starts jumping rope naked.
Somewhere around this point, the second story is introduced, in which a woman named Captain Anna pilots a small steamer with a large bust of Karl Marx’s face on the masthead down a river. She allows a man to come aboard and ride with her, but warns him that if he falls in love with her, she will kill him.
The two storylines are told interspaced, tho they never connect, and involve everything from pissing, vomiting, murder, war atrocities, coprophagia, cults, infantilism, a woman stripping for a bunch of children, a flamboyant mariachi singer who gets his penis stuck in the above mentioned perfect virgin, communist propaganda, an orgy, and lots of nudity. Oh yeah, and chocolate (masturbating in chocolate to be exact. And sex in sugar. Sex and murder in sugar. With a mouse. Is that enough for you?). All wrapped up in a colorful, lighthearted, almost sketch comedy-esque format.
I recognized very few actors in this- the dude who plays the Dean in Animal House (who also played the warden in Chained Heat) has a small part, and Miss Canada is played by one of the girls who went on to be in Naked Massacre.
I’m pretty desensitized to weirdness and disturbing imagery, however at least one scene in this made me mildly uncomfortable. The director, Dusan Makavejev, has made several disturbing movies in his time, and was actually exiled from his native country (Yugoslavia) for making disturbing films. This is the only one I’ve seen of his.
Someone out there thinks it’s important, tho, because a Criterion Collection DVD was released in 2007, which means it’s right up there with 12 Angry Men, Rashomon, Bicycle Thieves, King of Kings, Spartacus, Pygmalion, The Last Picture Show, Rebecca, The Thief of Baghdad and other classic and groundbreaking films (plus Armageddon) in someone’s mind.
If you’re looking for something weird and perverse, this is the movie for you. It’s not produced with near the level of talent as Jodorowsky or others on his level, but still interesting enough to impress your uptight friends with.