[Originally published in Movietone News 38, January 1975]
It’s one hell of a note. Here’s this interesting-looking movie playing at, of all places, the Eve, a centrally located Vancouver softcore house: Erotic Dreams—originally (reliable sources) Wet Dreams. The long, narrow ad in The Province has caught my eye: “1st Erotic International Film Directors’ Festival.” A titillating uncertainty already, you see, as to whether it’s the “international film directors” who’re erotic or the Festival itself. Well, there they are, ten of ’em, international as hell, and among their names I find “Nicholas Ray (U.S.A.) … Dusan Makavejev (Yugoslavia) … Heathcote William (Great Britain).” Is this for real? Could “Heathcote William,” for example, actually be the Heathcote Williams, a major British playwright (AC/DC, The Local Stigmatic)? Or do we have here one of these tiresome Madison Avenue dodges in which a “Richard Nixon” is quoted hailing the virtues of a new brand of biodegradable prophylactic but proves (ha ha!) to be only a humble cabdriver from the Bronx? This “Dusan Makavejev,” so-called, am I to visualize some beetle-browed Balkan guy located via the Hollywood phone directory, then, or is it possible that he is the real article? Enough of speculation. I adjust my raincoat, I pay my (!) three dollars, and I enter the steamy precincts of the Eve.
By god, it’s for real! A varied, interesting collection of short films by different, uh, international directors. The 15 segments unroll: now funny, now macabre; now artsy-fartsy, now avant-garde; brilliant, mediocre, lyrical—why, erotic, even. A thoroughly enjoyable flick. Credits time; I scribble furiously (the theater’s one press kit is unobtainable today). Aha, “The Janitor,” Nicholas Ray—wow, he is really moving out! Wild and woolly, this Ray segment: doppelgängers, trick photography, Beckettian ambience. A tramp Moses/John Knox figure (Ray) rants and fantasizes, is serviced orally by acolyte maidens … very weird. OK, who did that marvelous animated sequence—Bosch-like; hooded, ambulatory phalluses, strange metamorphosing flora and fauna, Ensor masks, Carmina Burana pulsing away on the soundtrack? Hmm, Hans Kanters (The Netherlands). And “The Plumber”? Lee Kraft (U.S.A.), and very nicely done, too. Silent, “primitive” black-and-white, this little Chaplinesque, mustachioed chap comes to fix the toilet and almost immediately starts copulating with the large, fleshy, more-than-willing lady of the house; takes on equally willing “French” maid, too. Nonstop screwing all over the place, speeded-up motion, pseudo-silents piano score, imaginative hardcore humorous touches throughout: a delightful opener for the anthology.
The other animated sequence, whimsical little misogynist, misanthropic sex gags? Oscar Cigard (Yugoslavia). I’m scrambling to notate names and sequence titles in the dark, match titles mentally at the same time to sequences. “The Happy Necrophiliacs,” Falcon Stuart (Great Britain)—got to be that rather disagreeable one with the two rapacious women savaging a looking-for-some-action Innocent Abroad.”Flames,” Heathcote Williams. Nuts. Williams’ entire contribution, apparently, the equivalent of a one-liner, involving a diabolic emission; nice surprise gag but minor—and here I’d pegged him for that weirdo last sequence that turns out to be Nick Ray’s. “On a Sunday Afternoon,” Geert Kooiman (The Netherlands), a lightweight but amusing John-and-Marsha sendup, touristic views of .herring stands, canals, and lofts undercut by a Pete Smith–y voiceover, sprightly mock-travelogue organ score, straightfaced soap opera romance headed for goofy dénouement.
What else? Titles impossible to match with sequences: “Contrasts,” “Deep Skin,” “A Face,” “Another Erotic Dream.” These take in, I presume, some of the “abstract” interspersed material, much of it by co-producer Max Fisher (Germany). Good-looking people sensually massaging each other; huge out-of-scale closeups of body parts (eyeball, navel, toe, ear); two Brobdingnagian tongues twining and untwining like the battling brontosaurs of Fantasia. Additional tongue play, normal scale, the owners snapping and snarling at each other like animals, a rite uncannily combining comedy, zoology, and eroticism. And a final sequence, lovers encased under fresh sheets, their movements rendered in slow motion (yawn!), a big bed in a small room, fixed camera position; when suddenly—hey, what’s happening here?—a very, very gradual … rising; a levitation; first the sheets, up, up, and right out of frame!; and now—the lovers themselves! up, up … zap! Gone. A cinematic Houdini act that brings Erotic Dreams‘ heterogeneous goings-on to a magical conclusion. I walk out of the Eve surprised and happy.
Ten minutes later, it hits me. What the hell have they done with Dusan Makavejev? His name wasn’t in the credits! In due course I get hold of the precious press kit. The answer is buried in a rich loam of misspellings and malapropisms (“Jens Joergen Thorsen … who has won recognition and acclaim for his film Quiet Days in Cliché“)—Dusan Makavejev is … “SAM ROTTERDAM”! And Sam Rotterdam directed the episode called “Politfuck.” Of course: your perfect, trenchant Makavejevian title. Only … what in the name of “the brilliant range of the erotic spectrum” was Politfuck? I haven’t an auteurfucking clue, so help me. All I can think of is that impeccably choreographed groupgrope of writhing red-, white- and blue-painted bodies that very slowly coalesces to form, yes, yes, you knew it would—under the aegis of a giant hot dog and to the tune of “America the Beautiful”—the Stars ‘n’ Stripes. And that one (“The Banner”) is the work, so it seems, of Lee Kraft (U.S.A.). Help! If Erotic Dreams shows up in Seattle, see it—it’s good—and if you figure out which one “Politfuck” was, please drop your faithful Vancouver correspondent a line, c/o this magazine. How, I ask you, can I get on with my own erotic dreams while my nights continue to be haunted by this unanswered question?
Direction: Nicholas Ray, Lee Kraft, Dusan Makavejev, Jens Joergen Thorsen, Oscar Cigard, Hans Kanters, Max Fisher, Geert Kooiman, Falcon Stuart, Heathcote Williams. Production: Cinereal Film, Berlin/Film Group One, Amsterdam.
Copyright © 1975 Ken Eisler