Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Man Bites Dog (1992)

Man Bites Dog

(C'est arrivé près de chez vous)

Written, Directed and Starring Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, Benoît Poelvoorde, Vincent Tavier

Man Bites Dog doesn't beat around the bush. From the very start, it unapologetically kicks you in the testes and refuses to stop until the closing credits begin to roll.

Who is this stranger on a train being filmed by a documentary camera crew? And why, pray tell, are they filming him? He doesn't seem so interesting, the way he's just standing there, looking as dull and normal as any regular Joe that you might happen to pass on the street. Like this woman coming here, for example, walking past him. Is she any less deserving of a...

Wait...why is he grabbing her? Why is he forcing her through that door? And why aren't the filmmakers doing anything!?

Because everyone is just doing their jobs.

The man is Benoit, and he is a serial killer. The camera crew is filming a fly-on-the-wall documentary about him, following him from victim to victim and recording it all: the hunting, the killing, the disposal of the bodies, and even the tricks of the trade.

Ever wonder the proper method of weighing down a dead midget in order to sink him in the river? Well, wonder no more. Benoit is here to answer all your questions. He loves to talk about his trade. In fact, he loves to talk about anything. From music, to poetry, to art, to zoology, to philosophy, to archaeology, to aesthetics, to cinema, to politics, and all subjects in between. He seems to be knowledgeable in all subjects (or, at the very least, opinionated on all subjects). I can't help but wonder if this is how Sartre's Self-Taught Man spent his nights.

The documentary crew is, of course, guilty as sin. First as voluntary witnesses, then as mere accomplices, but, before long, willing participants. It seems that being that close to the darkness is bound to cast a few shadows upon you.

Man Bites Dog is, obviously, a commentary on the media and how they sensationalize and coldly glorify real life violence. That is to say, if it bleeds it leads. We know that Benoit is the villain here (although he is an oddly likable character, much like many serial killers are reported to be). What we're supposed to be doing is asking ourselves, how guilty is the media?

Comparisons here to Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers are inevitable, but in the end, not worth the trouble. While both films have their merit, Stone's take was too over-the-top to be taken as a serious statement, like a Tex Avery cartoon on Owsley's Best Acid. Man Bites Dog, while still a dark (midnight black, actually) comedy, is much more subtle and as such, harder to shake off at the end. In fact, its closer in tone to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer than anything else, with perhaps a dash of Heathers thrown in for spice.

Filmed on a shoe string budget in gritty black-and-white, complete with occasional handheld shudder shots and questionable editing techniques, it even feels like a documentary, so it has a false authenticity that tickles the nerves. While I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's realistic, I will say that it is as realistic as a decent dark satire can be before it becomes something else. With graphic depictions of deplorable violence, rape and other crimes against humanity, this movie isn't for everyone.

But for those that this movie is aimed at...boy, are you in for a treat.

View the trailer below!

95 Minutes
Black and White
French (with English subtitles)

Man Bites Dog is currently ranked #45,788 in DVDs at Read more about it at the IMDB, rent it at Netflix, or buy it today!


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