Montenegro (1981)


(director/writer: Dusan Makavejev; screenwriters: Donald Arthur/Branko Vucicevic; cinematographer: Tomislav Pinter; editor: Sylvia Ingemarsson; music: Kornell Kovach; cast: Susan Anspach (Marilyn Jordan), Erland Josephson (Martin Jordan), Bora Todorovic (Alex Rossignol), Per Oscarsson (Dr. Aram Pazardjian), John Zacharias (Grandpa Bill), Svetozar Cvetkovic (Montenegro), Jamie Marsh (Jimmy Jordan), Marianna Jacobi (Cookie Jordan), Lisbeth Zachrisson (Rita Rossignol), Patricia Gelin (Tirke), Marina Zindahl (Secretary); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Bo Jönsson/Christer Abrahamsen/George Zecevic; Atlantic Releasing Corporation; 1981-UK/Sweden-in English)
“Weirdly entertaining black comedy, that’s not for all tastes.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Weirdly entertaining black comedy, that’s not for all tastes. It’s directed by the eccentric Yugoslavian Dusan Makavejev (“Sweet Movie”/”The Coca Cola Kid”/”WR: Mysteries of the Organism”), who uses outrageous set pieces and a bunch of daffy characters to exert a strange comedy with muddled symbolic meanings about colorful immigrants bringing life to their dull Swedish hosts. I’m glad the director saw it that way, as stated in an interview, but I just saw a messy film looking to find anything it thought was funny and throwing it against the wall to see if it sticks.

It’s set in Stockholm, Sweden, where bored American housewife Marilyn Jordan (Susan Anspach) lives in luxury with her wealthy travel-hopping businessman hubby Martin (Erland Josephson) and two precocious children, Jimmy (Jamie Marsh) and Cookie (Marianna Jacobi), and an elderly wheelchair-bound kinky grandfather (John Zacharias), who thinks he’s Buffalo Bill and advertises in the newspaper personals for a wife.

When Martin goes to Brazil, his 23rd trip in a year, at the last second, after hubby left for the airport, Marilyn attempts to join him. But because of garden shears in her purse is detained by security and misses the flight. While searched by customs, Marilyn meets Tirke (Patricia Gelin), a young girl from Yugoslavia who is smuggling alcohol and a dead pig into the country. They become friendly when Marilyn agrees to hide some valuables for her, and when released she believes hubby already departed and thereby accepts a ride with the girl’s sleazy employer Alex (Bora Todorovic)–the expatriate Yugoslavian owner of the tacky Zanzi bar that caters to working-class immigrants. En route they pickup a Yugoslavian man who cheated his brother in cards and was stabbed in the forehead. He rides with them to the hospital with the knife still sticking out of his forehead and when they get to the emergency room they take time to pose for a group photo.

Warning: spoilers in the next paragraph.

At the club, two men get into a fight where there they smack each other around with shovels. For entertainment, Tirke performs an exotic dance while a remote-operated toy army tank with a large dildo passes underneath her (underhandedly offering the message of make love not war). After the sexually repressed Marilyn lets go of her inhibitions and sings on stage, she balls the bar’s handsome peasant butcher Montenegro (Svetozar Cvetkovic) and then kills him (Don’t ask why!). Returning home after her two day stay at the bar, Marilyn then gleefully poisons with fruit her family and invited guest, the insane psychiatrist her hubby hired to treat her, Dr. Aram Pazardjian (Per Oscarsson). It ends by telling us this is based on a true story (Ummm!).

Makavejev seems to delight in attacking the bourgeois upper-classes with shocking scenes and pointing out their hidden anger that they try to keep suppressed. It’s a surreal film that seems more horny, subversive, and Buñuel than anything in mainstream cinema.