Man Bites Dog (Cest Arrive Pres De Chez Vouz)

Dir: Remy Belvaux, Benoit Poelvoorde, Andre Bonzel, 1992


Early masterpiece from the found footage genre or a nauseating excuse for exploitation?

Ben (Poelvoorde) is a serial killer and proud of it.

Openly boasting about his many crimes, a documentary (Belvaux and Bonzel) crew follow him around, filming his rapes and murders.

Before they realise it, the crew have become involved and are now willing participants.

Opening to critical acclaim, Man Bites Dog, or It Happened In Your Neighbourhood, is low budget filmmaking at its worst.

Filmed in black and white on 16mm (because, y’know, it’s art), this arty farty French crap just screams pretentiousness.

Occasionally, the French do churn out a solid piece of film that blows away many others of its kind, like Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine.

And then you’ve got this. A meandering piece of rubbish with only one aim and that’s to shock.

Whether it’s supposed to be a commentary on violence in cinema or anything else, I don’t really know (or care for that matter) but I do know that I was bored rigid.

I can’t, honestly, see what they were getting at except to try and revulse its target audience which are mainly middle classers salivating over Krzysztof Kieslowski.

Clearly it worked as it was the same middle classers that declared it a masterpiece.

The film’s most infamous scene is a brutal gang rape and murder of a woman in the her kitchen, ending with a graphic shot of her stomach gashed open and the innards falling out.

There is no point in any of this. There is no motive or insight into what makes Ben tick. He’s not misogynistic, he’s misanthropic.

If it is a statement about the horrific images we see in film on a regular basis then it isn’t an ‘anti’ slant. The aforementioned rape scene is evidence of that.

Man Bites Dog is one of the best examples of class bias in Britain.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer was heavily censored by the BBFC removing and changing around all the scenes of sexual violence. It wasn’t until the mid-noughties that it, finally, made its way into the homes of the British public uncut.

But that was an American film and had wide appeal, especially to horror fans.

This French film was subtitled so, as was the consensus at the time, only educated, middle class people would watch it and, therefore, could handle it without the risk of harm.

A thoroughly vile view to hold but hold it they did.

This little black and white Frog shock was released totally uncut for both cinema and video.

However, the film caused a lot of upset in other countries (notably Sweden who banned it) and it wasn’t just for its content.

The world has a funny relationship with violence on screen. Some things are sensitive and taboo while others are okay.

For the poster, you can see Ben firing a gun at an unseen victim. A dummy is shown being expelled with spurts of blood.

It’s obvious, despite no scene like this appears in the film, that a baby is being murdered.

This was far too controversial and obscene so a slightly altered version was used instead.

Instead of the dummy, a set of teeth are used in its place. And this solved the problem.

Have a look:

Censored poster

The gun wasn’t an issue. The violence itself wasn’t an issue and neither was the gore.

It was, purely, the insinuation that the victim was a baby.

 In a nutshell, violence against a baby or child is unacceptable but violence against an adult is fine.

Is there only me that sees a problem with that logic?

I would just like to point out that shooting somebody, regardless of where it is, would not result in an entire set of dentures ejecting, false or otherwise.

Black and white with subtitles does not automatically make a film a winner.

Dull, uninteresting and redundant.


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