CAT OF THE DAY 069: LJUBAVNI SLUCAJ ILI TRAGEDIJA SLUZBENICE P.T.T. (aka THE SWITCHBOARD OPERATOR aka LOVE AFFAIR, OR THE CASE OF THE MISSING SWITCHBOARD OPERATOR) (1967)
Cat of the Day 069 demanded something erotic, of course. Since I couldn’t think of a film depicting cats having oral sex (as opposed to mere fastidious grooming) here is one of the most famous, evocative and erotic cat-related images in films, one that avid young film buffs like me saw repeatedly reproduced in books such as Amos Vogel and Scott MacDonald’s Film as a Subversive Art or L’erotisme au cinéma long before we ever got a chance to see it on screen.
In his second feature, Serbian film-maker Dusan Makavejev relates the tragic love affair between a young switchboard operator and an older man, a Turkish sanitation expert, but interweaves this story with newsreel footage (including a history of the grey rat), breaches of the Fourth Wall, and lectures from sexologists and criminologists – the sort of heady socio-political-sexual cocktail the director would be whipping up again in his next and probably most famous film, W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism.
It has been aeons since I saw The Switchboard Operator in the course of an early, diligent plod through the must-see films of east Europe (Menzel, Forman, Wajda, Jancsó, Chytilová, Jires et al) but what has really stuck in my head across the years are the images of the switchboard operator baking. Eat your heart out, Nigella.
That’s quite a sequence: wonderful Godardian baking bookended by sexy cat stuff and the lovely apartment external. It doesn’t sound like the movie as a whole is quite my sort of thing (I’m pretty sure I ended up fast-forwarding through chunks of WR: Mysteries) but I’m very glad to have seen this.