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The Auteurs Daily: Dušan Makavejev: Free Radical

The Auteurs Daily

Dušan Makavejev: Free Radical

"By far the biggest brat to sneak his way through Eastern Bloc culture during the New Wave era, Yugoslav bomb-thrower Dušan Makavejev wasn't someone who took on his vocation with a somber air," writes Michael Atkinson for IFC. "I don't know for sure how much fun he had making movies, but he seems to have been locked into a constant euphoria of half-soused, giggling movie love.... No filmmaker ever had so much high sport with the prevarications of Iron Curtain communism while the dictators were still striding the ramparts."

"The Criterion Collection brought [WR: Mysteries of the Organism] and Sweet Movie to DVD in 2007, and now Criterion has added Dušan Makavejev: Free Radical, a boxed set of three early features, to its no-frills Eclipse line." Dave Kehr in the New York Times: "These films - Man Is Not a Bird (1965), Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator (1967) and Innocence Unprotected (1968) - may arrive as ghostly dispatches from a vanished country, but thanks to Mr Makavejev's bounding wit they seem as full of unruly life as ever."

"[U]nlike with Andrzej Wajda's tightly anti-communist Polish parables," writes Joseph Jon Lanthier in Slant, "Makavejev's metaphors for oppression and redemption are in constant flux throughout even individual films, like giddily metamorphosing moths daring us to catch up as we watch them devour our favorite cardigan. And despite their municipal-mindedness, Makavejev's movies... are obstreperous anti-satires, instead nose-thumbing the establishment with the genre-fusing, stream-of-consciousness, kitchen-sink ethos we might find in a Lenny Bruce routine (sans the self-deprecating confessions and racial slurs). Makavejev, in other words, deliriously applies the introspective, symbol-laden arrhythms of personal, 'Freudian' comedy to arguments against the state that are ordinarily founded in parodical theses."

"His body of work is smaller and surely less influential than that of such New Wave titans as Godard and Oshima, and his early movies, so inextricably tied to their moment, have dated a bit," concedes Dennis Lim in the Los Angeles Times. "But in some ways, with his indelible fantasies of sexual freedom and political liberation, Makavejev remains the definitive 1960s filmmaker."

"He specializes in contradictions," writes Michael Koresky in Criterion's Current, "both in his artistic sensibility - eternally wry yet not an avowed satirist, hopeful about humanity yet unrelenting in his grim portrayals of our willing complacency - and in the very form of his films, which use collage and juxtaposition as tools for liberation from social and cinematic strictures. Skeptical of authority and any official ideology, as well as the straitjacket of linear story telling ('Narrative structure is prison; it is tradition; it is a lie; it is a formula that is imposed,' he once said), Makavejev aims to tear down and rebuild the basic blocks of moviemaking itself. Toggling easily, even imperceptibly, between fiction and documentary, his films can appear to be vérité portraits of everyday life one minute and unhinged, surreal comedy the next - like a Jean Rouch ethnography crossed with absurdism by way of Luis Buñuel."

Gary W Tooze: "This is exactly what fans have come to expect from the Eclipse Series - exploring clandestine art films that purchasers would never have had the opportunity to be exposed to previously."

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