Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sexually Socialist Surreal Satire

"WR: Mysteries of the Organism,” directed by Dusan Makavejev, 1971

This film was ground-breaking in its day, 1971, and still has the ability to shock and make one think.  It is no accident that the title sub-texually refers to orgasm.  A collision of a Wilhelm Reich documentary, a fictional ‘love’ story and a propaganda film for sexual liberation, it was one of the first art films from the workers states using Stalinist kitsch to undermine the bureaucratic mindset. 

WR stands for ‘world revolution’ – and it also stands for Wilhelm Reich, the author of the “Mass Psychology of Fascism.” This ground-breaking political work was based on a Freudian analysis of sexual repression and its role in the authoritarian personality, specifically the Nazis running wild in Germany at the time.  Reich had advocated for contraceptives, abortion, divorce and adolescent sexuality in early 1900s Catholic Austria.  Reich for a time was a member of the German Communist Party, but was sidelined for his advocacy of youthful sexuality.  He left Germany because of the Nazis.  However he ended his life as an anti-communist in the U.S.   For his advocacy of the Orgone Accumulator box (which ostensibly broke down sexual and personal rigidities) and his somewhat physical sexual therapies, 6 tons of his books were burned in New York’s public incinerator.  He was jailed as a medical fraud in 1956, and he himself died in that jail in 1958.  So he met the fate that so many anti-communists didn’t think happens to people in the ‘happy’ U.S. of A.  No matter how far you go from trying to get away from fascism, there you are. 

The first part of the film is a documentarian take on Reich’s life in the U.S., shot at his home in rural upstate Maine, with interviews with practitioners of Reichian therapy, and scenes of the therapy.   Via Eisensteinian montage, these scenes are interspersed with views of New York featuring Tuli Kuperferberg of the scatological rock band, the Fugs wandering around the city caressing a fake gun; two gay activists on the streets; ‘Screw Magazine's' editorial offices where the staff wear no clothes, and a member of the Plaster Casters taking a sample plaster model of a rock star’s dick.  It also has a scientific ode to masturbation, for which it was banned in several places. 

Interspersed with that is a fictional story set in Belgrade about a Serbian Communist woman, Milena, who comes off as the second coming (no pun intended) of Alexandra Kollontai.   She believes that socialism without sexual liberation is a fraud and parades around her large apartment building’s internal balconies declaiming the need for love, followed by most of its residents.  A great scene, by the way.  Instead of falling for the eager proletarian who pursues her, as her girlfriend would do, she falls in lust with a ‘perfect’ skating star visiting from the USSR, and tries to seduce him.  The perfect comrade Vladimir is too conflicted and instead of reasonably falling for her blandishments outside of a ruined factory, he eventually cuts her head off with his skate blade.

I.E. the authoritarian personality and his ‘muscular armor.’  Unfortunately, the skating champion’s name is “Vladimir Illych.”  Makavejev said later in an interview that sexual repression played a role in beefing up economic and political oppression in Yugoslavia and other workers states.  Taking the name of Lenin and being him are, of course, two different things.  This was actually a slam against those who attempted to borrow Lenin’s authority – like Stalin, Brezhnev and the rest - turning him into a marble, in-human saint.  The film was banned in Yugoslavia and Makevejev later went into exile. 

The film is one of the first that uses scenes from the monotonous and frequent depictions of the great leader Joseph Stalin in Soviet films, but this time turning them on their head.  One scene, from the Soviet film “The Vow,” in which Stalin remembers fondly talking to Lenin on a park bench, made Makavejev say, “This is pure demagogy and I loved this scene for its shallowness.”  'WR' has been called “the last utopian Communist film” and won an award at Cannes.  It is a film that is part of the “Sex-Pol” movement – something that no longer exists in our 'post-modern' age.

Review of essays by Alexandra Kollontai, below.  Use blog search box, upper left. 

Red Frog
February 10, 2015

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