Man Bites Dog review by The Grim Ringler


Ok, first things first, this is a French film, WAIT, no, wait, come back, it’s a GOOD French film. Really. I mean, from what you hear, you’d think all they made was artsy crap, but well, umm, they do, but that doesn’t mean it’s all-bad. It’s funny in fact, because they are even churning out fun action movies (the Taxi movies are a riot) like we Americans do. Huzzah! So, anyway. Man Bites Dog is a black comedy masquerading as an art film. Or perhaps it’s an art film that thinks it’s a comedy. It’s truly a question for the ages friends. But thanks to Criterion, you too can play this game of What Is It along at home. So, shall we see who the players are?

Man Bites Dog is shot documentary style because, well, it is a documentary, sort of. We follow a small indie film crew as THEY follow around and film the exploits of Benoit, a serial killer with a strong work ethic. And the funny thing to me is when I first saw this, when it came out on vid way back when, I thought it was the nastiest movie ever. It freaked me out. now, watching it, I see the humor, and it isn’t really that shocking at all, not in light of some of the stuff I have seen, but it’s more satire than anything else.

When I first saw it I saw Ben as a callous madman bent on death and savoring every murder he committed. What I see now in watching it is a man so desperate to be loved, to have attention, so desperate to have someone notice him that he puts on a show for the filmmakers, flourishing as a killer when before I can imagine he did it because he had no proficiency as anything else. He is the guy that seems to know it all but knows nothing. He’s Eddie Haskell. The too-nice guy that seems like everyone would like him but that truly hates himself because he knows he is a sham. But the documentary crew eats him up, getting wrapped up themselves in his antics. In his crimes. Becoming complicit in his crimes in the end and becoming part of the film they are making. And the end is truly a classic show of irony, which I won’t ruin but that just ties it all up brilliantly.

And as grim as the movie is, it IS funny. Not because he is killing innocent people for the sheer hell of it but because Ben is so damn DORKY, he is so wanna-be cool that you just laugh at how hard he tries to impress the film crew, desperate for them to like him and make this movie about him. The film is interesting for two other reasons as well – it was really something to see a movie made as a documentary, but that was really a jab AT documentaries and at the way they are made – the makers more interested in showing how compassionate and knowing THEY are instead of showing their subjects in a clean, clear light. The second reason is that it totally lampoons our obsession with killers and with violence, watching it but not wanting to see it. Liking the color of the blood but never wanting it on our hands. Or carpets. We thrill at the sound of violence but cringe at its reality. And Ben makes it all so much fun to kill, like a great game. And that’s where the dark horror lies in it. Because Ben is a monster, but he is a monster that was made not because of a bad childhood, but because he never found who he really was, so he took all of his frustrations and followed them, killing out of boredom instead of some great hatred for Man.

This is a brilliant film, and it’s cool that it’s finally on DVD in a really great edition. There isn’t a whole lot here, a short film that is a hoot, some stills, a great film transfer, and some essays, but that’s it. Still, it’s great to even HAVE it out because it is as haunting as it is funny, and long after the laughter has faded you will be left with the sick question of how many people like Ben are out there, floating through life without reason or direction, just desperate to prove they are here. By any means necessary. …c…

8 out of 10 Jackasses

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