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Man Bites Dog

A movie directed by Rémy Belvaux

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A darkly funny experience.

  • Mar 17, 2011
***1/2 out of ****

I love it when a film makes a statement, and I love a film even more when it makes MULTIPLE statements all at once. "Man Bites Dog" is the latest I've seen when it comes to films trying to get a clear message across; and it has a lot to say. Before I go along babbling about how much I adored this film, I will advise you to stop reading if you think this film is going to make you feel sick. If you think it will do that; then it will do that. The premise calls for brutal violence, and the film delivers that in large doses. Some will admire how "Man Bites Dog" combines some of the darkest humor in cinematic history along with a strong moral about the violence contained within the human heart. But then there are those who will not enjoy this film. These people will call it "the most depraved film ever made". Now depraved means to be without moral reason. The character in this film is depraved. The film itself is not. There is a reason for this film to exist, no matter how violent it is, and I ended up appreciating the sheer craft that was put into the production. Again, some people can't see past violence. But I can; and I completely understand why this film was made. It's a satire- be it a brutally honest one- that exploits the funny side of serial killer pop culture. It also talks about how media has shown us such violence without warning and without mental remorse. The film has many messages; all of which I just can't tell you. The most I can say for "Man Bites Dog" is that it's the damndest thing. I love it- or at least I kind of do- but due to the content I just can't recommend it. But if you THINK you can handle it, then "Man Bites Dog" magically transforms from a gratuitously, excessively violent flop to a viciously funny dark satire. It was funny, it was disturbing, and all-in-all, I thought it was pretty brilliant. Someday, there will be people who applaud it for being the bold production that it is. Isn't it nice to think that this will happen one day?

Ben is a passionate Serial Killer who wants a camera crew to document his killings and his craft. He starts out by showing them the proverbial "ropes", and then goes on to more extreme measures. The entire film pretty much depicts the life of a faux, nigh pretentious serial killer for what he or she truly is. The killer goes around killing and raping people for pleasure; or perhaps he gets something much more out of these ordeals. He eventually persuades the crew to take part in his deadly game; which leads to more and more trouble as time goes on. So yeah; I've spoiled a lot of the story for you already. You're going to have to watch the actual movie if you want to know how it ends and how it (really) goes. It's a well-structured movie throughout the whole thing, although most people will refer to the experience as "unwatchable". Some people will turn off the film before it's even over. But oh well; I've seen worse. And "Man Bites Dog" could have gone either way; it could have been bad or it could have been good. In this case, I thought it was pretty good. But that's just one man's opinion. In this case, everything relies on the viewer and their thoughts on violence, serial killers, vengeance, gang rape, and documentary filmmaking.

Benoit Poelvoorde is pretty darn good as the friendly but not-so-nice serial killer. Does that make any sense? In this case, I think it does. The killer is friendly, polite, and it a genuine gentleman. But he's also a sadistic man-man who just tries hard to fit in while he's not our murdering people. I liked the character, and I liked the actor as well. He's backed up quite nicely by his crew; who do indeed put on performances in spite of their role. The film is completely fictional, although it's presented in mockumentary style. So keep that in mind while you're watching such unrestrained madness unfold.

A film like this certainly has the ability to provoke. "Man Bites Dog" can be frightening, violent, and shocking all at the same time. This certainly adds to its artistic craft; although for some it will also add to its disgust. But to show what "Man Bites Dog" shows, you've got to have some darned good back-up. "Man Bites Dog" is the kind of film that DOES have the kind of back-up that I'm referring to; which comes in the form of quirkiness and visual style. The film is beautifully shot, in black-and-white, of course. This kind of adds to its humor most of the time, although before you go all out and call "Man Bites Dog" a "comedy", you must know what's meant to be funny and what's meant to be cold, sadistic, and all-out cruel. The violence isn't meant to be laughed at. No sane human being can truly get pleasure from watching this movie solely for its violence. But then again, the reason I saw it was because I knew the satire was pretty clever just from the look of the movie. It feels about right, for what it is at least. Violence is needed in this story, and I don't think a controversy is really worth it at this point. Do you think "Man Bites Dog" is sick? Most people do. But do you want to know what I think is sick? Violence shown as it isn't. This film is realistic, and anyone who joins the negativity of the controversy surrounding it is just trying to hide the fact that "Man Bites Dog" is one of the best portrayals of human violence in recent years. It has a nice style, and an artistic feel to it. To "enjoy" this film would be wrong. But to like it; well, you're still sane if you do. I just wanted to put that one out there.

I've learned to admire films such as this. "Man Bites Dog", as a film about a documentary crew filming a serial killer, takes risks and wins big when it comes to craft and quality. I admittedly liked this film; it was slick and stylish, and funny as well as clever. The satire is truly biting, and is delivered in a dark, nearly cruel way. That is why I have warned you of this film's content. It depends on what you can laugh at, and how long you can hold off from barfing. This film could be considered sickening, disgusting, and despicable. Perhaps "Man Bites Dog" is every one of those things. Does it matter? No, it does not. This film is not cruel or exploitative. It's a portrayal of violence for what it truly is; VIOLENCE. The media tends to cover up what violence truly is by making action movies less graphic. Some don't need to be as violent as "Man Bites Dog". But if you want to get violence for what it is, then you need to start where this film does; beyond the border that lies between grotesque art and admirable art. This could be one of the best film's I seen; it very well could be. I for one am unsure. The most I know is that "Man Bites Dog" is funny and very, very good. It's enjoyable if you find moderate fun in the humor (that doesn't involve rape or murder, even if some of the killings are kind of ironic in their own little ways). I like this movie. And I will conclude that while it is graphic in its violence, "Man Bites Dog" is not pornography. It has a purpose, a meaning, a message; it does not exploit anything. A proper word to describe this film would be art. That it is.

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About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie



Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
Release Date: 15 January 1993 (USA)
MPAA Rating: NC-17
Screen Writer: Rémy Belvaux
Runtime: 95 min
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