Movie: Man Bites Dog (1992)
Method: Netflix DVD
Why Did I Watch This?
I have no idea how this got on my radar. I honestly forgot. I thought it was just like a phrase and I remember it as a joke in Spaceballs (1987). Now I'm not sure I've ever known less about a movie going into it. They literally started speaking French and I thought, "Oh, is this French?" I did not know it was black and white. Or actually what year it was made. I figured like, old? OR how violent and insane this would be.
How Was It?
This is assuredly a good movie, maybe one of the best of all time. But it's decidedly not for everyone. It is starkly violent and wholly uncompromising in its depiction of the worst actions imaginable. I mean, child murder, gang rape, it's all in there. Fun for someone who has no idea any of this is coming.
The whole bit is that it's amazingly matter of fact. The premise is that a documentary crew is following this guy who is incredibly charismatic and jovial, but also kills quite a few people. He seems to be maybe a professional robber or assassin or something? But no one gives him a job, he mostly just mugs and kills folks. He sees it as a job, though, he is remarkably detached. But there is some kind of moral code in there, when he kills a family and finds they have nothing for him to steal he's lascient about it.
That's not to say he has any redeeming qualities. He's one of the worst human beings to appear on any screen. It's like how Goodfellas (1990) showed all these really charismatic crooks who were so complacent and comfortable with death. Except this depiction is taken far far further. The documentary crew at first just seems to be taking it all in, but they slowly get more absorbed into his deeds, until they are helping him dispose of bodies, join in on killing children and raping wives, and all sorts of nonsense.
It's unnerving, to say the least. You wonder at first what their deal is, like is this some alternate universe where these actions or more acceptable? Or are they just morally apathetic? We don't get insight into why they are creating this project, but they keep moving forward, even after a few are caught in stray gunfire in the line of duty. Slowly all possible redemption for every character melts away.
It's shot super cheap, on 16MM. You know, I wonder if I put this on my list after watching "Truth in Journalism" which as I'm watching now is definitely the same movie, down to the hairstyles and really short tie. I'm really the worst film blogger of all time. Or maybe I just don't pretend to know everything. Anyway, they ingeniously got around hiring a cast by just hiring themselves to act and be the crew at the same time. It's pretty fun. The cinematography isn't super awe-inspiring, but I was struck by how good black and white looks. Especially the blood effects. Every film really should probably just be black and white.
This only works because lead actor Benoit Poelvoorde is amazingly engaging and charismatic. There's this weird satisfaction in knowing how he'll react to a situation, even if it's invariably horrific. He's incredibly well-defined for what must have been mostly improv, or a quick and dirty script. There are such large stretches of him on camera, it really is fantastic. There is just nothing held back, this is really humanity at is most raw and visceral.
The editing is unreal, too. Man that shot that cuts between kids with toy guns to actual guns being fired gets me every time. There is such wise use of editing to imply violence, but they also then definitely go for graphic violence as well. It all works in service of a story that feels somehow satirical? It's as if you have no choice but to laugh. But you also do really feel for these inhuman monsters! Their desires are so well articulated - not just killing folks, but the loss of a communion bracelet or wanting to hang out and eat some bad mussels. It's all as real as the horrific violence.
I don't know about this one, you have to be into it. It's really compelling and will stick with you for quite a while, but also definitely not for Grandma. I say check it out if you're able to. Netflix DVD for the win again!