Man Bites Dog Packs Rabid Raunch
By
Phil Davetas
10/4/2002 3:41:20 PM

"If asked what this movie was like, Iíd say itís Natural Born Killers with a brain."


ďIíve just finished ballasting the corpse, see? That means you fill it with certain things because you may not be aware that a corpse underwater swells up with air, see? So it tends to float to the surface. You have to load it with ballast so it sinks. You weight it down with stones and other heavy stuff. Thereís a ballast ratio for corpsesÖ three times the body weight for an average adult like this victim. But for children and midgets, itís different. Kids are lighter. So itís four times body weight. Midgets are heavier so you double the weight. Midgets have denser bones so you double the weight. For old people, multiply by five. Old bones are porous.Ē

Now that's classic stuff. Such is Man Bites Dog.

I was living in Texas at the time this came out, and though it was banned in my town, it was all over the Fango mags and really got my attention. Everything was censored about it. Even the very poster here was outcast. They had to change the pacifier to a set of dentures -- and then that had to be changed to a generic photo of Benoit pointing a gun.

This is a little French flick (pre-mockumentary bandwagon) about a cluster-fuck of financially-impaired students filming a documentary on a homicidal maniac, Benoit Poelvoorde, who, in turn, winds up financing the kidsí movie. Itís a movie without much real direction, but you have such a good time bathing in the grim humor that makes up good European vanguard cinema and the audacity of relentless violence. What makes the movie more surreal is that fact that the killer is such a wimpy and humble guy. He likes to get bombed with his friends, chill with the neighborhood kids, values his family construct and still has time for some late night plundering, de-virginification while wearing a priestís collar and dropping corpses in the quarry. Just when this flick feels like it should be running out of steam (like your choice of any Tarantino movie), the filmmakers are smart enough to keep the jokes coming at an inventive pace. If asked what this movie was like, Iíd say itís Natural Born Killers with a brain.

Benoit is having birthday dinner when the film crew gives him a token of their appreciation. Benoit tears through a sloppily wrapped package to reveal a holster. Benoitís look of surprise -- grinning all the way, ďA great idea! Just the right color. Who picked it out?Ē The scene plays out well along with the moment of death quickly inserted.

One of the things that I find interesting about violence in film is the fact that people are so shockingly upset about it as if they were killing real people. There have been cases about movies inspiring violent behavior in people, but violence exists in everyoneís mind and body. Itís what we choose as human beings to do and not do. Some dude I met was going on about Martin Scorsese and the violence in Saving Private Ryan. and how other war flicks arenít as gratuitous as movies like Man Bites Dog or other exploition flicks. This guy went on and on about how the violence in Saving Private Ryan was justified and there was not one gratuitous shot in the entire film. ďThe movie just showed the hell of war.Ē I looked at him for a long second so he can squirm a bit and told him he was full of shit. Whenever you film a violent act, itís exploit. It's gratuitous. Itís designed to create an emotional reaction in the audience. Spielberg films a scene in Ryan where the protagonists are being picked off by a Wehrmacht sniper. Barry Pepper, one of the protagonist sharp shooters, fires a shot through the scope of the Wehrmachtís rifle splattering his brains against the wall behind him in slow motion. Spielberg said, ďI wanted people to look away from the screen in horror.Ē Thatís a PC thing to say. Making the audience look away from the screen defies the whole reason of having people pay $10 go to the movies in the first place. I can just stay home and look at the wall for three hours and say, ďMan, wasnít that Saving Private Ryan great? I didnít see shit, but it mustíve been so good because it chased me right out of the multiplex!Ē Remember folks, Spielberg has to say things like that whether he believes them or not. Itís called good PR. The violence in Man Bites Dog is done for an emotional reaction as well -- usually to be funny and exploit, but that doesnít mean itís not entertaining.

Last note. The movie is in French and thereís no English dubbed track. You have to read it, but I think you can get through it. If you speak Frenchóbonus.


NC-17, 1991, 96 min., B&W, English subtitles, Les Artistes Anonymes.

Starring: Benoit Poelvoorde, Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel, Vincent Tavier, Jean-Marc Chenut, Directed by Benoit Poelvoorde, Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel.

Special Features:

Photo Gallery, Interview with the filmmakers, a short film school project by the filmmakers and Trailer.


 

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