Man Bites Dog (1992)

DVD Cover (Criterion Collection)
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Overall Rating 74%
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Ranked #2,155
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A camera crew follows a serial killer/thief around as he exercises his craft. He expounds on art, music, nature, society, and life as he offs mailmen, pensioners, and random people. Slowly he begins involving the camera crew in his activities, and they begin wondering if what they're doing is such a good idea, particularly when the killer kills a rival and the rival's brother sends a threatening letter. --IMDb
Review by Ginose
Added: October 13, 2007
As a fellow reviewer said, it is, indeed, October. The month of horror films, the only month out of the year that we fans of gore and disturbing ideas can truly bask in the glory of the horror genre. We can cover everything and anything from slashers to kaiju in this month without getting a backlash under any circumstance... but then again, do we do themes often?

This edition to the annals of history is "Man Bites Dog"; a joint effort documentary in which a HIGHLY dedicated film crew follows around a fellow by the name of Ben (Benoît Poelvoorde), filming and analyzing his daily life. A simple documentary about a seemingly simple subject that gets very difficult along the way. Why would it? Well, how many documentaries are done about a serial-killer/robber while he's at work? I suppose it could do good to answer some questions, like motive, logic, etc., but hasn't that all been covered in every other documentary ever made? What exactly is the point of just TELLING somebody about it when you could show the world these atrocities from the culprit's point-of-view? Wouldn't it explain the life of these criminals even better? That's exactly what these fine fellows try to accomplish throughout this motion-picture. Though they hit a few... "bumps" along the way, they do, indeed, complete their film. But, just how effective is it? You'll have to decide that yourself.

Well, truth be told, a film of this caliber had to be reviewed soon, or I'd be embarrassed to work with this site. "Man Bites Dog" is probably one of the most disturbing, horrific, disgusting and ruthless films in the history of cinema. Why is it so widely accepted as one of film's greatest achievements, if this is the case? Let's start by looking at the assembly of the film: a fake documentary. These have been done and will be done for a long, long time because the point of them is simple. All you really have to do is convince people that you are really making what you're trying to make. Simple, no?

Well, on rare occasions, some filmmakers can tend to make their film a bit... too real. Now, this isn't to say "Man Bites Dog" is believable, but, when examined closely, it's hard to say that you can sit through this whole movie, examining all aspects of it and not at least find a it a bit disturbing. For one thing you've got gruesome and detestable acts performed on innocent (and occasionally guilty) people merely for money or, occasionally, just for the fun Ben gets out of performing such acts. Worst part of THIS is: After a while, you start to like Ben. His character grows on you as if you could relate to him, as if he were a friend of yours or you knew him personally. His charm, his wit, his deep reflection on what he views as wrong with modern society. On occasion you may actually start to agree with him. This is wickedly a nerving especially when you realize that his character doesn't change ONCE through the length of the film! In the end I was left with a very "Hannibal Lector Syndrome" situation. I realized the terrible man been was, and yet, I couldn't help but like him, and, on occasion, actually pity him in his endeavors.

Next, let's talk about the flow of the film. It works in true documentary fashion in which no corners are cut and nothing is hidden from the viewer (though I don't believe I've gotten that from a documentary in decades) and you're left with only an honest opinion of Ben's character. They never try to justify the things he does and they never try to make him out to be some kind of terrible monster either. They show him as he is: a regular guy with regular tastes that just has a knack for obtaining his means of living illegally. And, honestly, has the thought that a fellow you work with or one of your children's school teachers may be a deranged killer in their free time? Of course you have, we all have.* You know that nice guy that only seems to be there to help people out when they need it? Truth is, you're always going to be suspicious of their true intentions*, well, "Man Bites Dog" displays these traits with amazing accuracy.

There is no mark-off for the acting in this film, either. There's really nothing unbelievable in the performances, even the crew (who you don't see amazingly often, but more than enough to show you their progression) are spot on in their characters. This is exactly what you come to expect from a film in which the crew are key characters. I was impressed, and I hope you are as well.

Did I mention that this film is a comedy? Well, it most certainly is. Not the "laugh-a-minute" kinda ordeal, but more like the "so-morbid-and-appropriate-that-it-is-hilarious" kind of thing. There are jokes, sure, hilarious ones. I'd rather not reveal any to you as they would more than likely ruin their funny. But there is one entertaining moment in which been talks about burying two Arab men he killed in a wall, but he made sure that they were facing Mecca. When used in context, it's priceless, if you ask me.

People's only main argument with this film is that it was slow. It had many scenes that they believed to be frivolous. The truth is I think these people just weren't expecting an all-in-all gritty film like this. They may have expected a corny thriller or a moronic drama-documentary, they got neither and walked away disappointed, I'm sure.

I, personally, believe this film deserves all of its praise and then some. This is a ballsy film that is enchanting all-the-way through. There was not a moment wasted, as far as I'm concerned, and that is rare.

I'm going to have to go 10/10 on this masterpiece. But, see it for yourself. Just be sure you know what you're watching before you do, though.

* (These may just be my assumptions, but I don't truly doubt their validity when referring to most people. So there. No whining.)
Tristan #1: Tristan - added 10/13/2007, 02:14 PM
Well sir, you did it justice. 10/10
grain of sand #2: grain of sand - added 10/29/2007, 09:27 PM
I think a 10/10 suits this just right.
the microphone on the neck, priceless!
Chad #3: Chad - added 01/02/2008, 05:58 AM
Sorry to say, but this one just didn't do much for me. It had some neat scenes and I enjoyed the concept (although I think "The Last Horror Movie" did it much better), but overall, it was just sort of there. 5/10.
Greg Follender #4: Greg Follender - added 09/23/2008, 12:27 AM
One of my favorite guilty pleasures... i love this film!
At times a bit gratuitous... but always earnest in it's presentation... a tremendous story-telling achievement.

Innovative and genuinely disturbing... excellent!


(As an end note... the early scene with the girl on the train manages to be so terrifyingly convincing in an utterly pedestrian fashion... Truly chilling. )
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