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  Wild Eye, The Mondo Morality
Year: 1967
Director: Paolo Cavara
Stars: Philippe Leroy, Delia Boccardo, Gabriele Tinti, Giorgio Gargiullo, Luciana Angiollilo, Lars Bloch, Gianni Bongionani, Tullio Marini
Genre: Drama, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Paolo (Philippe Leroy) is a filmmaker, he creates sensational documentaries that are not only shown around the world, they are filmed around the world as well. Today the globetrotter has ended up in a desert in North Africa with his cameraman and four hangers-on who wanted to go along for the ride, but now, out in the middle of nowhere, one of the party is having second thoughts. She is Barbara Bates (Delia Boccardo), and is finding Paolo's pursuit of a gazelle very hard to take, especially when he claims to want to make its heart burst from terror, so she turns off the jeep's ignition. But then the tourists and documentarians are placed in peril themselves: they've run out of fuel and water, stranded!

Paolo Cavara was an Italian filmmaker who, like his main character, made his name with mondo movies, those sensational and often opportunistically staged pseudo-documentaries that invited the audience to be amused or revolted by the sights from around the planet the directors had concocted. But by this time, he had evidently become fairly revolted with the whole process himself, for The Wild Eye was a blatant criticism of the entire genre, and more than that, a scathing takedown of his former partners who continued to opt for mondo when raking in profits that Cavara could only dream of as he tried to go "legit". Whatever the reason for this bitterness, he was not a happy bunny.

Therefore as previously, Cavara took his small crew around the world and staged his scenes, but there was a meta style to this where we were watching Paolo stage his own scenes, and were expected to tut at his antics, if not actually grow outraged at the arrogance of such films. The tone had a holier than thou aspect that demonstrated the director's disillusionment with his former meal ticket with the zeal of the convert, now he was being moralistic and asking some hard questions about the ethics of exploiting people's misery all for the sake of turning a profit at the box office. Which was all very well, he had a right to do so and probably knew far more of which he spoke than the critics of the form, but he didn't half bang on about it.

Once you knew that Paolo had set up the whole stranding in the desert simply so he could film it and make profit from the tourists who believed they were about to die, you more or less had the measure of the man, but Cavara was not going to let it lie, he kept on with the attacks on the mondo moviemakers for the next ninety minutes with no let up. On the ship to Vietnam, where let's not forget there was a war raging, Barbara becomes strangely drawn to Paolo and his naked amorality, precisely why is not too apparent when he is much given to making pompous pronouncements about his craft ("Reality is boring!") and is clearly an arch-manipulator. But by the time they have docked, Barbara has ditched her boyfriend (Lars Bloch) and is following the director much in the way audiences were unable to turn away from the documentaries they were supposedly offended by.

The sequences in Vietnam, North and South, took up the bulk of the film, starting with Paolo trying to persuade a Buddhist monk to set himself on fire to mimic a well-known, horrifying protest that had been seen around the globe (he refuses and basically tells him where to go). Then he takes Barbara to see addicts in a rehab centre who are willingly whipped to cure them of their addiction, and she is suitably upset until she realises the flogging has been just as staged as everything else her new beau shoots. But talking of shooting, he leaves her behind to capture a scene of an actual execution by firing squad, which he manages to orchestrate as well, by which point Cavara seems to be seething with rage at this character he has created. Or was it his former colleagues? Not wishing to spoil anything, but he was present when Gualtiero Jacopeti's girlfriend, British actress Belinda Lee, was killed in a car crash, and the way in which Paolo reacts to what happens at the end is one of the most withering putdowns ever presented on celluloid, suggesting all too strongly that ambition and greed were the bread and butter of the mondo movie, and damn the human cost. Not much fun, then, and fairly laboured. Music by Georges Marci.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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