What a week, huh? Yeah, pretty crazy. It’s Friday though, so it’s almost over. And since it is Friday, how about some FAM?
Today we have 1992′s Man Bites Dog (French: C’est Arrivé Près de Chez Vous, It Happened in Your Neighborhood), directed by Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, Benoît Poelvoorde. A mockumentary, the story follows a crew of filmmakers, including director Rémy (Belvaux) and cameraman André (Bonzel) as they record the day to day adventures of Ben (Poelvoorde), a prolific serial killer. Ben brings them along on his excursions, introduces the crew to his friends and family, and discusses the ins and outs of his “craft”, as well as pontificating on subjects ranging from philosophy to architecture. Soon, however, the crew is drawn in to participating in Ben’s increasingly random and violent crimes.
I recently re-watched this with someone who had not seen it previously and it is definitely a movie of two halves. The first half of Man Bites Dog can be very funny, in a way that only dark comedies can be. There’s even an homage to the running gag in Rob Reiner’s seminal mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, with the crew losing a number of sound men during filming (due to “occupational hazards”), with each receiving the same eulogy from Rémy. It is a cynical humor to be sure. The shift occurs 2/3rds through the film (Editor’s Note: Oh for— You said this was a movie of two halves and now you’re speaking in thirds. What is wrong with you? Must you be terrible at everything?), with a brutal scene that heralds the active participation of the film crew. It’s a powerful moment and it works by both removing the distance the crew afforded themselves from what they were filming, as well as removing the distance the viewer was afforded from what they were watching. In that moment, all the laughter sort of gets sucked out of the room.
Watching it again, over a decade since I first saw it, I was struck by how well it still holds up. The cast is superb, especially Poelvoorde who plays Ben as a man simply making a living, regardless of how monstrous the means may actually be. It is a manic, bizarre movie; violent, cruel, and funny. And yet, despite that last bit, it never feels like it condones what is happening on screen. In the end, all involved are judged guilty, and all pay for it.