Tuesday, January 6, 2009

CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (Ruggero Deodato, 1980, Italy) Our world of steel and glass, of choking fumes and crush of people, devours the green inferno, extinguishing its dense thick beauty to satiate our never-ending appetite for destruction. This tragic exploitation film is caustic indictment of modernity, depicting civilization as the antagonist, the invader whose presence conjures the specter of Death to prey upon the indigenous peoples of the Amazon. It is also a bitter critique of the Documentary, as scenes are staged, a set-up that passes the simulacra of verity through violent manipulation; through slick editing, a film that will pronounce its blatant lies as truth for an audience that revels in its visceral impact, a society weaned on violence and gore, and does indeed eat its own kind. The film’s low budget, stock acting, quick-cut editing, and convulsive point-of-view cinematography adds an element of authenticity. The bloody special effects are shocking; in context, making the deaths very convincing. But the film ultimately consumes itself, like a starving man whose very existence is dependent upon cannibalizing his own body: the equilibrium will eventually skew towards self-destruction. Director Ruggero Deodato has the makings of an interesting and thought provoking film; a social commentary buried under the canopy of the thick jungle, but can’t separate exploitation from scrupulousness. He eviscerates live animals for his horror show and lets the camera linger over the slimy entrails, taking sadistic pleasure in the suffering of live creatures. But I admit, this brutality is nothing new to the cinema: Coppola’s APOCALYPSE NOW, Haneke’s CACHE, Klimov’s COME AND SEE are a few modern masterpieces that kill live animals for effect…and generate little controversy. But CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST seems to go too far, the killings only create a gut wrenching vomitous expungement, as your gorge rises, its acidic tendrils caressing the palate. Juxtaposed with the fake murders, I must admit it does add a crimson patina to the film that helps reflect a genuine flare of homicide. Ultimately, I cannot recommend a film where actual suffering is food for the thoughtless, a recipe for consumerism. (F)

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