From the Chicago Reader:
We may forget that the most radical rethinking of Marx and Freud found in European cinema of the late 60s and early 70s came from the east rather than the west. Indeed, it’s hard to think of a headier mix of fiction and nonfiction, or sex and politics, than this brilliant 1971 Yugoslav feature by Dusan Makavejev, which juxtaposes a bold Serbian narrative shot in 35-millimeter with funky New York street theater and documentary shot in 16. The “WR” is controversial sexual theorist Wilhelm Reich and the “mysteries” involve Joseph Stalin as an erotic figure in propaganda movies, Tuli Kupferberg of the Fugs “killing for peace” as he runs around New York City with a phony gun, and drag queen Jackie Curtis and plaster caster Nancy Godfrey pursuing their own versions of sexual freedom. – Jonathan Rosenbaum
“W.R.” is pioneering sexologist Wilhelm Reich, whose precedent-breaking theories concerning carnal behavior and politics (including the invention of the orgone box) made him persona non grata in most psychoanalytic circles. By all accounts, Reich began his career brilliantly – as the next great successor to Freud and Jung; he then delved into extraordinarily controversial work that divided his critics, leading some to conclude that Reich had experienced a psychotic break from reality. Dusan Makavejev is the equally controversial Yugoslavian director fascinated by Reich’s theories. This essay film by Makavejev – his first major work – constitutes a witty, free-form riff on the director’s perception of Reichian philosophies as the basis of individual and collective sexual liberation. Makavejev elucidates the Reichian mindset via interviews with the doctor’s relatives and colleagues (we even hear from Reich’s barber!) Also illustrated is the ongoing conflict between the free-thinking disciples of W.R.’s sociopolitical attitudes and the adherents of sterile Stalinism. Over the course of the picture, Makavejev journeys to the U.S. and interviews such American sexual liberationists as Screw magazine editor Al Goldstein and Betty Dodson. Woven into the factual proceedings is a fictional plotline concerning the romance between Reich adherent Milena and uptight Soviet athlete Vladimir Ilyich. Though the film was never released in Makavejev’s native Yugoslavia, WR: Mysteries of the Organism firmly established the iconoclastic filmmaker’s international reputation.
Language(s):English, Serbo-Croatian, Russian, German