17 January, 2010

C'est arrivé près de chez vous (Man Bites Dog: It Happened in Your Neighborhood) (1992)

None more black

European Film Awards Young European Film Of The Year Nominee 1993

We're back - and a very happy 2010 to all our readers.

Amazing to think that some 17 years have passed since writer-directors Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel and Benoît Poelvoorde put Belgium on the cinematic map, big time, with C'est arrivé près de chez vous (1992), n'est-ce pas?

Poelvoorde has since gone on to be one of the Low Countries' most succesful exports but has moved away from the jet-black horror-humour that characterizes his performance as aimiable serial killer/thief Ben in C'est arrivé... towards the broader (but no less enjoyable) strokes associated with classics such as Philippe Harel's Le vélo de Ghislain Lambert (2001) and Yann Moix's fabulous Podium (2004).

Ben is every hack's dream - a real-life serial killer living in the small Belgian town of Namur (from where Poelvoorde himself hails) who comes into the orbit of reporter Rémy (Rémy Belvaux) and cameraman André (Andre Bonzel) and allows himself to be filmed 'working' - that is to say, mercilessly murdering and raping various victims (young and old), whom he also relieves of various possessions and cash. Clearly intelligent and articulate, Ben holds forth on life, art, music, and society while he's on his 'rounds' but, as he gradually begins increasingly involving the camera crew in his 'work', and the lines between chronichlers and perpetrators become blurred, things start getting very dicey...

It is, of course, a relatively old director's trick, one that dates at least as far back as Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960), to make the audience complicit in on-screen atrocities. Why, after all, should we want to watch such a film?

Well, îf you're looking for reasons, start with Poelvoorde's absolutely priceless performance, then add a script and cinematography that redefine cinéma vérité, combined with naturalistic, entirely believable performances from all concerned (most of the actors, after the fashion of other break-out films such as George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968), were already known to the directors, and even included Poelvoorde's mother).

Finally, nobody ever said that great cinema has to be soft and cuddly, did they? Frankly, this masterpiece, which combines sickening horror with laugh-out-loud humour, but also includes genuine pathos, has more to say about the human condition than some may wish to know. Too bad - not seeing it would be their loss.

Awards: Click here for details.

95 mins. In French.

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