Man Bites Dog (1992)
Man Bites Dog is the story of Ben (Benoît Poelvoorde), a killer, a very matter of fact one. This weird Belgian film, follows Ben with a film crew as he does his thing. It’s not a documentary, but uses the style very effectively. He kills for money and jokes around a lot. Make no mistake though, he’s not a lovable rogue, he’s a ruthless racist homophobic scumbag. The body count is furious, thank god it’s in black and white, I’m not sure I could watch it in colour. It’s still pretty borderline, such is the blasé way Ben dispatches his victims. Apparently on its release, it was said to be ‘More violent than Resevoir Dogs’. I’m not sure that’s a worthy claim by any means, but it’s certainly violent. Ben’s an unlikely star, a scrawny looking bloke with a bad haircut and a worse suit. He fancies himself a connoisseur though, of design, style and murder. A flamboyant pro. It creates an uncomfortable mix between the murders and his posturing for the camera. Ben loves the camera, loves the limelight, craves the attention. The crew keep quiet mostly, but they’re not hidden. They’re complicit of course and it’s not long before they’re entangled more than they want to be. They go through sound men, like Spinal Tap do drummers. The Guerilla filmmaking looks like it’s shot on a budget, but plays to that strength, essentially the crew play themselves. It does feel a little farcical in places, considering the shabbiness of it and the content, for large stretches it’s not very gritty. There are several scenes that are the very definition of horrific though. I won’t describe them, but it’s not for the faint hearted. Ben is obviously dangerous and unhinged, but if this film is about anything, it’s the relationship between him and the crew. Once separate, the lines blur, certainly in Ben’s mind. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but it’s certainly distinctive and will leave an impression.