Man Bites Dog (1992) (NC-17)
"Man Bites Dog" is a curiously experimental film about the human condition. God, how pretentious! I mean, how many movie reviews start out like that? Like really, how many? I'm not going to go count the all...also, I had no idea how to start, so welcome to my rambling.
The French mockumentary provides us with a look at the sub-genre that we never got before, how disturbing it can really be. When you think about the vagrancies presented on screen as fact, it's almost impossible not to get a little chill run up your spine, particularly because of the care-free and laissez faire way in which it is introduced to the story. Murder is just another day in the park and the filmmakers, a trio of students, make the right decision by not allowing themselves to make an commentary or answer about what could provoke such a, to quote Lydia Davis, variety of disturbances.
The movie begins with a murder. A woman walks past a man on a train and he wraps a wire around her neck, pulls her into a room, and kills her. The film makes it seem like this is just going to be France's version of a Tarantino flick, but no, the very next scene reveals it as a documentary, albeit a fake one.
Benoît Poelvoorde (all actors play themselves in the movie) is a killer, but this isn't "Henry: A Portrait of a Serial Killer" because Ben seems to get some sort of glee from killing. It's his favorite thing. We get no scenes implying that he is compelled to do it or that it is morally destroying him. No, he just kills and he kills a whole lot. The amount of bodies that appear on screen or disappear into rivers are almost too many to count. Ben is a busy boy.
Then there's the filmmakers, lead by Rémy Belvaux, who also is the man behind the concept of the movie. Rémy and crew follow Ben around and wait for him to strike and slowly but surely the observer gets pulled into the action. There is no such thing as an unbiased viewer and Rémy soon finds himself helping out with the murders and covering up bodies for Ben, who cannot seem to be contained.
Described like that, "Man Bites Dog" seems like a real horrorshow (Kubrick would have appreciated the movie, I think), but the film's care-free approach to topics that most certainly deserve more severity leaves the viewer wallowing in Ben's world and eat the dogma he spits out.
It's almost more disturbing that there is no vile recoiling occurring here until the last few scenes in which everything crumbles.
"Man Bites Dog" does not want us to believe in its truth, and I think that's what helps the viewer distance themselves from the movie. This isn't "The Blair Witch Project" though it most definitely is the father to the horror film, because it likes to leave a little space where logical thought can penetrate the realistic way the film is shot.
Take for instance a moment when two film crews meet, both following men who kill men. This is sort of the introspective moment that truncates all the film's emotional power. It's zany and slightly funny and ends bloody; but hey, it was entertaining.
Of course, maybe I'm missing everything and the film is really a commentary on what we find enjoyable. After all, the filmmakers are convinced that making a movie about a man devoid of morals will be worthwhile. Why would that be, if they didn't feel like their movie could sell?
Naturally, the film ends the only way it could; but I don't think that it's a predictable movie. "Man Bites Dog" is scary because it is about the insane people that live on the corner of your street or sleep in your house as children.
Perhaps it's a little too sensationalized; but that doesn't stop it from being ground-breaking.
Posted by Micah Jones