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  Man Bites Dog The Media In The Dock
Year: 1992
Director: Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, Benoît Poelvoorde
Stars: Benoît Poelvoorde, Jacqueline Poelvoorde-Pappaert, Nelly Pappaert, Hector Pappaert, Jenny Drye, Malou Madou, Willy Vandenbroeck, Rachel Dreman, André Laime, Édith Le Merdy, Sylvaine Godé, Zoltan Tobolik, Valérie Parent, Alexandra Fandango, Olivier Cotica
Genre: Horror, Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ben (Benoît Poelvoorde) is a serial killer who hires out his services to criminals, but he would probably kill people even if he wasn't getting paid for it. Currently a documentary film crew have been following him around, capturing his life as he guides them through his crimes, explaining the finer points of his murderous ways such as the best method of disposing of the corpses he leaves in his wake. His preferred technique is to wrap them up after weighing them down with ballast, then dropping them in the canal or the flooded quarry, though he doesn't always seem as accomplished as he likes to think he is. Anyway, we watch as he begins the month as he usually does, by attacking a postman and raiding his letters...

It's safe to say there were some very diverse reactions to this tiny budget black comedy from three Belgian filmmakers, only one of whom went on to do very much in the industry after making quite the splash with their debut, which almost counted as an amateur movie given how far they had to scrape up the cash to continue filming over the course of a whole year, and the relative inexperience of the creators. But they had a "killer" idea, and sometimes that's enough; some thought their observations on how the news media feeds the voyeuristic need for audience titillation of the worst aspects of society were thumpingly obvious, but it would also be true to say few had been so upfront about it before then.

You did have more respectable efforts like Network for the cognoscenti to stroke their beards over, appreciating the never abating hunger the public has for the most lurid details of criminal activity, but they never felt as down and dirty as Man Bites Dog did (an inspired title the English language distributor chose, the original being C'est arrivé près de chez vous, literally "It happened near your place"). This sense of an insatiable appetite for real life horror, and to another extent sex, was an element that should be addressed was curiously not acknowledged by the characters as everyone gets caught up in the cycle, be they innocent victims or otherwise, as the film crew are coaxed into joining in with Ben's activities the more they become inured to his vile acts.

Therefore it was left to us in the audience to condemn his actions, though that was not to say the three directors didn't give us any ammunition (to use a violent term) to do so, as Ben's endless pontificating on any subject that takes his fancy, encouraged by the apparent respectability of having a camera pointed at him, does little for him but leave him exposed as a blowhard, and the worst kind, one who is convinced of the worth of behaviour that has degraded both him and the community, and he will never be able to realise where he has gone so badly wrong. His overconfidence was continually pricked in scenes that undercut his pathetic worldview, so much so that it becomes a running joke to see him brought low time and again.

Therefore he will be holding court at a fancy restaurant he has taken the crew to, making up pretentious poems as if he is some kind of artist, then soon after a bad shellfish prompts him to vomit in his plate. The directors returned to this formula continually, which could have been repetitive only they conjured up so many variations, each more unpleasant than the last, that you were in no doubt we were watching something diseased in the collective point of view that hypocritically celebrates what it appears to condemn. This was ostensibly a comedy, which had some regarding it as a cross between mockumentary This is Spinal Tap and found footage notoriety Cannibal Holocaust, as when it got dark it got very dark indeed, with a child being killed and most famously a gang rape the whole crew take part in. Nobody is innocent except the victims like the little old ladies Ben picks on, and as he is a contract killer too even some of his targets are no angels, but if Man Bites Dog verged on overstatement, it was savage enough to leave a strong impression.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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