Yugoslavia



NOVI FILM

A tendency—rather than a film movement—called novi film emerged in the wake of the political and economic liberalization of Yugoslavia in the 1960s and 70s. While lacking a program or coherent aesthetics, novi film sought to free Yugoslav cinema from bureaucratic dogmatism and promote free expression and experimentation. Inspired by Italian Neorealism and various new waves in European cinema, the filmmakers rejected the dominant style of socialist realism, with its officially sanctioned optimism and patriotic education of the masses, opting instead for exposing the darker side of the socialist state with its corruption and hypocrisy. More radical filmmakers voiced open criticism of the Communist regime. They were called "Black Wave" by the censors, but later the name began to denote nonconformist film culture. Živojin Pavlović's (1933–1998) Budjenje pacova ( The Rats Woke Up , 1967) and Kad budem mrtav i beo ( When I Am Dead and Gone , 1967) exemplify the Black Wave together with films by Želimir Žilnik (b. 1942) and Bata Čengić (b. 1933).

The best internationally known of all Yugoslav directors is Dušan Makavejev (b. 1932). His early films— Čovek nije tica ( Man Is Not a Bird , 1965), Ljubavni slučaj ili tragedija službenice PTT ( Love Affair; or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator , 1967), and W.R.—Misterije organizma ( W.R.—Mysteries of the Organism , 1971)—reflect both the thematic tendencies of the Black Wave as well as the modernist styles of the novi film . Forced to leave Yugoslavia, Makavejev worked abroad for nearly two decades but returned to Belgrade to shoot his Gorila se kupa u podne ( Gorilla Bathes at Noon , 1993). Aleksandar Petrović (1929–1994) is another Yugoslav director who established an international reputation. His intimate Dvoje ( And Love Has Vanished , 1961) and the partisan genre Tri ( Three , 1965) established him as a leading voice of the novi film . Petrović's ethnographic Skupljači perja ( I Even Met Happy Gypsies , 1967) was a great international critical and commercial success, and the politically charged Majstor i Margarita ( The Master and Margaret , 1972) won top awards at the Venice Film Festival.

A noteworthy mark on Yugoslav cinema was left by a group of filmmakers who graduated from the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in the Czech Republic. They became known as the Yugoslav Prague Group, with works characterized by meticulous attention to cinematic style and plots that combined drama and subtle humor. The most celebrated works of the group are Samo jednom se ljubi ( The Melody Haunts My Memory , Rajko Grlić, 1981), Okupacija u 26 slika ( Occupation in 26 Pictures , Lordan Zafranović, 1978), Virdzina ( Virginia , Srdjan Karanović, 1991) and Petrijin Venac ( Petria's Wreath , Karanović, 1980), Tito i ja ( Tito and I , Goran Marković, 1992), and Čuvar plaže u zimskom periodu ( Beach Guard in Winter , Goran Paskaljević, 1976) and Bure baruta ( Cabaret Balkan , Paskaljević, 1998), along with Otac na službenom putu ( When Father Was Away on Business , Emir Kusturica [b. 1954], 1985) and Bila jednom jedna zemlja ( Underground , Emir Kusturica, 1995).

The Balkan conflict and breakup of Yugoslavia became the subject of some 250 documentary and feature films made by Yugoslav and international directors and was unprecedented in post-communist Eastern Europe. Theo Angelopoulos's To vlemma tou Odyssea ( Ulysses' Gaze , 1995), Kusturica's Underground ), and Michael Winterbottom's Welcome to Sarajevo (1997) were the most representative examples. The political changes and

DUŠAN MAKAVEJEV
b. Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia), 13 October 1932

Dušan Makavejev is one of the most controversial directors and screenwriters to emerge from the former Yugoslavia. Trained in both psychology and film, Makavejev began his career writing film criticism and directing shorts and documentaries. From the beginning, his films posed a challenge to the values of the socialist state. Openly provocative in his approach, Makavejev established himself as the most original member of the Yugoslav oppositional "Black Wave."

His first feature, Čovek nije tica ( Man Is Not a Bird , 1965), is set in a small industrial town and depicts the affair of a visiting industrial specialist and a local hairdresser, while at the same time targeting the very fabric of socialist society, namely, its "shock workers," lack of individual freedom, social control, ritualistic propaganda, and hypocrisy. Ljubavni slučaj ili tragedija službenice PTT ( Love Affair; or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator , 1967) has a similar thematic preoccupation but also foreshadows Makavejev's future films by foregrounding the sexual side of the affair between a switchboard operator and a rat exterminator. Stylistically, the film bears Makavejev's trademarks: nonlinear narrative, collage of associative images, documentary and pseudo-documentary footage, and "scientific" lectures by a sexologist and a criminologist.

Makavejev's breakthrough and international recognition came with W.R.—Misterije organizma ( W.R.—Mysteries of the Organism , 1971), a film that he described as "a fantasy on the fascism and communism of human bodies, the political life of human genitals, a proclamation of the pornographic essence of any system of authority and power over others." Shot in the United States and Yugoslavia, the film juxtaposed a documentary on the life of Wilhelm Reich, including his theories of sexual repression and liberation, with a story of a young woman who tries to introduce "free love" in socialist Yugoslavia. Followed by controversy, the film was withdrawn from domestic distribution and shelved for sixteen years; also, Makavejev was forced to work abroad because of political pressures.

His next film, the international co-production Sweet Movie (1974), proved even more controversial because of its biting double critique of Western consumerist values and of the degeneration of Eastern European communism. The film's sexually explicit nature offended Western audiences and was denounced by many critics. Thematically, Sweet Movie resembles W.R. , but stylistically it explores the possibilities of Eisensteinian montage in combination with Belgrade surrealism. The film received almost no distribution and failed to launch the director's career in the West. Two of his subsequent projects, Montenegro eller Paerlor och Svin ( Montenegro , Sweden, 1981) and The Coca-Cola Kid (Australia, 1985), were moderate commercial successes but did not match the critical achievements of his Yugoslav productions.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING

Čovek nije tica ( Man Is Not a Bird , 1965), Ljubavni slučaj ili tragedija službenice PTT ( Love Affair; or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator , 1967), Nevinost bez zaštite ( Innocence Unprotected , 1968), W.R.—Misterije organizma ( W.R.—Mysteries of the Organism , 1971), Sweet Movie (1974), Montenegro eller Paerlor och Svin ( Montenegro , 1981), The Coca-Cola Kid (1985), Manifesto (1988), Gorila se kupa u podne ( Gorilla Bathes at Noon , Germany, 1993), Rupa u dusi ( A Hole in the Soul , 1994)

FURTHER READING

Durgnat, Raymond. WR, Mysteries of the Organism . London: British Film Institute, 1999.

Goulding, Daniel J. "Makavejev." In Five Filmmakers: Tarkovsky, Forman, Polanski, Szabó, Makavejev , edited by Daniel J. Goulding, 209–263. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

Muskavejev, Dusan. WR: Mysteries of the Organism . New York: Avon, 1972.

Vogel, Amos. Film as Subversive Art . New York: Random House, 1974.

Wood, Robin. "Dusan Makavejev." In Second Wave , edited by Ian Cameron, 7–33. New York: Praeger; London: Studio Vista, 1970.

Bohdan Y. Nebesio

Dušan Makavejev during production of Montenegro (1981).

the emergence of independent countries were followed by the development of separate film industries, each with its own systems of film financing and distribution. Each country also became responsible for its film education and national film festivals and for the creation of film culture reflecting its national traditions.



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