3 December 2009 | Quinoa1984
a very odd epilogue to the fall of the Berlin wall and, more specifically, the ghost of Lenin
Even for Dusan Makavejev, who made some odd movies in his time (Sweet Movie one of them, and also Innocence Unprotected), and while this one, his last theatrical effort 'Gorilla Bathes at Noon' (catchy title) isn't one of his best, it is marked by some moments that startle and confound and you have to keep watching. It's about an ex-soldier for the Red Army who isn't going back home to Russia after the Cold War ends - his train left and his wife has left him. So he becomes a quasi-wanderer in Berlin, caught between the old and the new, and sometimes squats with some ex-underground types and a red-haired beauty who plays the flute.
These are the most general terms to describe this movie, which opens with about ten minutes of footage mostly culled from a 1945 documentary on the fall of Berlin and the end of the intense battle (though at times the footage looks so realistic as to look like it was staged, which it may have been), and then becomes a series of vignettes on this guy Latukhin. He visits a zoo and observes quite closely his Siberian "brothers" the tigers; he pays a visit to a woman who is very suddenly shot outside and then has to take care of a baby, who almost winds up in the hands of a black-market mobster; he gets his nose punched out by the boyfriend of the red-haired flute player when he finds the two in bed, and then later peels off both the bandage and (no joke) the bad red make-up meant to be the wound.
But most significantly he hangs out with Lenin, both his statue in Berlin, often vandalized, and also a reincarnation of Lenin played by a woman in a beard, who at one point asks the soldier to pluck out the bullet in his/her bald skull! It's a wacky movie that shows Makavejev hasn't lost his touches of anarchic fancy, but the problem is that he also has some dull stretches with his perplexing character set against this changed backdrop. His character doesn't have much depth except as a soldier still a loyal Marxist-Leninist who just barely understands he doesn't really have a place as a soldier anymore, and so it's mostly the weird little moments that make him watchable.
But there is one great moment in the film, one that would make me want to rate it higher: real footage of a construction crew sawing off the head of the Lenin statue and taking it away in a truck is cut with the footage of the Berlin soldiers in the 1945 film rushing to greet Stalin. It's a fitting little epilogue to years of struggle and failure and bloodshed, and one can tell Makavejev has mixed feelings about it.
Gorilla Bathes at Noon is best seen as a curio, but one fans of his eccentric style should be able to appreciate. It's almost like a wise man trying to make a young-man's movie, and it's charming, if not totally successful, to see it done. 6.5/10