Mysteries of Makavejev: Eros, Ideology, Montage -– Essay Collection

full name / name of organization: 
Litteraria Pragensia Books

Mysteries of Makavejev: Eros, Ideology, Montage

Submissions are invited for an edited collection of essays on the filmmaker, Dusan Makavejev, forthcoming in Litteraria Pragensia Books, the affiliated press of the Philosophy Faculty of the Charles University, Prague.

Among the most idiosyncratic auteurs of avant-garde film, Dusan Makavejev was championed in the early 70s as the herald of art cinema's next wave. In those years, film critics were calling Makavejev's early movie, Love Affair (1967), the best film that Godard never made. Innocence Unprotected (1968) was pronounced a tour de force of cinematographic collage. WR: Mysteries of the Organism (1971) received a thirteen-minute standing ovation as well as the Luis Bunuel Award at Cannes, and was later lauded as "one of the most subversive masterpieces of the 1970s" and as "the flagship of 'philosophical cinema.'" The film seemed to mock the psycho-sexual dynamics of the "homosovieticus" promoted by the Eastern Bloc's socialist regimes right along with the sexual revolutionaries of 1960s America. Everything was going Makavejev's way. WR was effectively banned in Yugoslavia, obliging Makavejev to exile himself, which gained him the status of a dissident filmmaker. Francis Ford Coppola invited him to direct Apocalypse Now. Instead, Makavejev made Sweet Movie (1974), a conceptual sequel to WR, a politological, erotological, scatological, scandalous and, for all that, unapologetic opus which received practically no distribution, ending his honeymoon with the film critics and with his financial backers, nearly killing his career. The movie, in the words of one film historian, "transgressed the 'decorum' of the art film.'

It was not until 1981 that Makavejev was to direct his next feature, Montenegro, followed by a series of films in which he resumed his unyielding focus on the erotics of twentieth-century ideology. In the past ten years, popular and academic interest in Makavejev seems to be resurging. BFI Modern Classics published a study of WR. WR and Sweet Movie were released on DVDs. Slavoj Zizek included Innocence Unprotected in the 2008 Telluride Film Festival. And the first book-length examination of Makavejev's oeuvre came out in 2009, the same year that Eclipse DVD series issued a set of Makavejev's 60s films. However, despite the revival, scholarly research on this exceptional filmmaker remains sparse. We therefore seek a range of essays from every critical perspective—formal and historical, psychoanalytic, gender and sexuality studies—which can amplify Makavejev's work.

For example, it has been said that Eisenstein's theory of 'intellectual montage' achieved its most kaleidoscopic realization in Makavejev's practice of forging densely textured, heterogeneous mixtures of cinematographic material into a dialectical standoff. Intercutting his narratives with elements of cinéma vérité and citations from vintage documentaries as well as with passages from other fictional movies, Makavejev created a unique style of filmic collage. In this regard, cinema itself—the stuff of our collective contemporary subconscious—is always a major theme of Makavejev's films, so that a sailor from Eisenstein's classic Potemkin becomes a character in Sweet Movie. While many critics refer to Makavejev's earlier work for illustrations of his radical montage, an example from his last feature film, Gorilla Bathes at Noon (1993), is just as appropriate. In this story of a disoriented Soviet major wandering Berlin after the fall of the wall, Makavejev interweaves his narrative with extended appropriations from another fictional work, Mikhail Chiaureli's 1949 The Fall of Berlin, diegetically embedding the latter movie as if it were a flashback of his main character's family history. A fictional character with a fictional imaginary, the critical irony is that this particular filmic imaginary belongs to the entire Soviet population that grew up on the Mosfilmwood mythology of the 40s and 50s. This is only one illustration of the inextricable connection that runs throughout Makavejev's oeuvre between his formal innovations and his exploration of ideological and psychoanalytic realms. Showing the human body as a symptom of ideology, Makavejev insists on the psycho-ideological constitution of our human organization, an organization in which the psycho inevitably takes over the ideological. In other words, what seems so rare in Makavejev's avant-gardism is precisely his status as one of the most engaged cineastes of our times. While his films are classics of postmodern pastiche, they offer uniquely powerful accounts of Western modernity's major mythologies, from the master-narratives of Western liberalism, erotic individualism and consumerism to the revolutionary yearnings of communist utopia, allegorized in Sweet Movie by the barge called Survival, loaded with sweets for future generations and with the ghosts of its victims from generations past. Essays that explore Makavejev's double commitment to social and formal cinema will be particularly welcome.

Send abstracts to the editors by June 15, 2010 – finished articles by October 1, 2010

Vadim Erent (

Bonita Rhoads (

Litteraria Pragensia Books is the affiliated press of the Philosophy Faculty of the Charles University in Prague (