Thursday, June 4, 2009

Manopsychotisches Ballet (1970)

Directed by:
Otto Mühl

During a discussion on Dusan Makavejev's SWEET MOVIE (1974), the name Otto Mühl (or Muehl) came up, so I decided to look up some information on this guy. Apparently Mühl (who played one of those crazy "therapy commune" nuts in Makavejev's film) was an Austrian artist who started as a painter, but then started destroying object-based art because he thought it was pointless. From then on out he concentrated on "action art" (performance art) because he became more interested in the "transition from art to life" (whatever that means) and was also one of the key figures in a very brief art movement known as Vienna Actionism that lasted from about 1960 to 1970 and in reality probably didn't make as much as a ripple on the art scene. Mühl also started his own group living/art communes over the years, was arrested for a variety of different things (including - but not limited to - having sex with minors) and has had some of his work shown at various art museum retrospectives, including the Louvre, over the years. MANOPSYCHOTISCHES BALLOT (1970) is one of many of Mühl and company's performance art sessions captured on film.

I can't say I really get some of these art people. I mean, who really can? I guess the founders and members thought they were involved in something profound at the time by rolling around in their own feces, and maybe this anti-visual art stance combined with the sexually deviant "free love" hippie commune garbage intrigued some people back in the day. I sure can't think of many filmmakers doing this kind of "extreme" stuff back in the late 60s. Still, at the end of the day, this seems less like art and more like a bunch of free-loving freaks getting together to do nasty things to one another. It may technically be a film in an avant-garde sense; sort of like Warhol's experimental stuff, but really what it is is a home movie. Call it "art" if you want but I'll call it "perverts doing their thang with no production values and no payoff."

So what does it involve? It's basically half an hour of two men (dressed in lingerie) and two women (dressed in nothing) doing all manner of repulsive things on a large sheet of plastic. There's use of some kind of pump, feminine hygiene products and other stuff thrown in that doesn't save it from being completely boring. No bodily function is left unturned, either and before it's over the participants are proudly showing off their filthy bodies. Hey Divine, you got some competition here. Toward the end, the "actors" drag out some chickens and kill them, rubbing the blood on themselves and eating one of them raw. It all wraps up with a charming shot of a guy doing a #2 on a title card reading "The End." Distorted screams are heard throughout and in the background clothed people are watching, taking pictures and talking. Not sure if these other people are commune members, journalists of a combination of the two. You can hear snippets of a song playing every once in awhile. The camera-work is basically awful, with wobbly shots that are out of focus mixed with shots you wished were out of focus. I also really don't understand the point of an art movement that supposedly goes against the medium of visual art (paintings, sculptures, etc.) yet allows itself to still be captured using another form of visual art (film). I tell ya, some of these art people are too much...


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