WR: Mysteries of the Organism

"Very Good"

WR: Mysteries of the Organism Review


Those familiar with Dusan Makavejev's work will not likely wonder why WR: Mysteries of the Organism features an opening shot of a trio of people playing with a yellow egg yolk, but rather will wonder why they aren't naked.

Makavejev's defining work is one of eerily appropriate juxtapositions, fact and fiction, old footage and new. Ostensibly a documentary about psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich (the WR of the title), the film begins with a roughly half-hour discussion of Reich's theories. As Freud's first assistant, Reich was fascinated with sex and sexual politics, and he pioneered theories regarding the "orgone," a kind of cosmic energy with healing and sexually-charging powers. Reich's family, friends, and acquaintances are interviewed, with his far-out theories and therapies displayed for the viewer, as well as a chronicling of his rapid fall from grace, which culminated in the destruction of his work by the FDA in a late 1950s book-burning.

But just when you get comfy with the fascinating treatise on Reich come a litany of other films and stories intercut with the documentary. There is the American poet Tuli Kupferberg, running around the streets of a city in military regalia, narrated by his poetry. There is the androgynous Jackie Curtis, one of Warhol's crew, waxing about sex. There are excerpts from a Soviet propaganda film, starring Stalin. And there is the editor of Screw magazine, having his member cast in plaster.

While all of the above feature documentary footage, a sixth(!) story -- a work of fiction -- surrounds them all. In this story, a Yugoslavian woman (Milena Dravic) becomes infatuated with a Russian figure skater, all while her roommate holds sex parties in their apartment. Milena preaches the virtues of communism to all who will listen, and soon we see her social politics as an analogy for her sexual ones -- and Milena and the skater end up copulating, with disastrous results.

If only WR kept up the interest level of the Reich biography, this might have been a fantastic picture. Too bad that none of the supporting footage nor the fictional tale match the sheer curiousness of Reich's story. Makavejev has certainly gone out of his way to make WR stick together, each of his fragments working together to tell a story bigger than the sum of its parts. The narrative's communist theme turns into one of sex; Reich's sexual research results in a fascist destruction of his work. If only it worked that way in practice -- WR's supporting bits just don't have the punch they need, and that drags the film down. Kupferberg's raving lunacy serves as counterpoint to nothing. Curtis's whining about sex comes across as, well, whining about sex.

In the end, WR (originally rated X) should be noted for having a great first third, when Reich is the focus. After that, Makavejev's slip-slide into madness becomes ever more obvious.

Aka W.R. - Misterije organizma.

Bustin' loose.



WR: Mysteries of the Organism

Facts and Figures

Run time: 84 mins

In Theaters: Monday 10th May 1971

Distributed by: Criterion Collection

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Fresh: 12 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Milena, as Vladimir Ilyich, as Jagoda, as US Soldier, as Radmilović, as Jackie Curtis, as Himself, as Himself, Mikheil Gelovani as Joseph Stalin

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