From scene one, Man Bites Dog affronts the senses and grabs you by the throat. Our French antihero is first captured on film by the faux documentary crew following him as he strangles a girl to death on a train. We are then treated to his rules on how to properly weight a corpse so that it sinks when you throw it into the river. Women, the elderly, and midgets are all special cases.
Man Bites Dog's Ben (Benoît Poelvoorde, who also wrote/directed/produced as part of a cadre of guerrilla filmmakers who) is unapologetic about his vocation (serial killer). In fact, he's darn proud of it, and he aims to teach us a thing or two not just about the hard work of a madman, but about his racist, misogynistic, and generally misanthropic philosophy too.
A black comedy that's as dark as night, Man Bites Dog is a worthy successor to A Clockwork Orange as this generation's most telling and unflinching look at our views on violence. But Man Bites Dog filters that through the lens of the media in a biting damnation of our fascination with televised tragedy -- the more real the better. Think you're above such behavior? We all need only remember back a year ago to how we were all glued to the TV as the World Trade Center repetitively collapsed to remind ourselves that we're all violence voyeurs at heart.
Oliver Stone would try to repeat this mastery in 1994 with Nautral Born Killers, but he ended up with a garish and headache-inducing mess. Stone's movie is unreal to the point of laughability. Dog is so real it hurts: When Ben's parents (Poelvoorde's real folks) are interviewed about their son, they weren't told that he was playing a mass murderer in the movie. Their comments are as shocking as they are oblivious. It's as achingly funny as moviemaking gets (without fart jokes).
Of course, we're meant to despise Ben. The movie's real point is in challenging us over what we're supposed to think about the people behind the camera, who quietly capture his doings on film. Aren't they conspirators in his crimes, despite never pulling the trigger (or jabbing the knife into someone)? Of course they are -- and in fact, before long they're all pitching in on a gang rape and a few of them get shot by Ben's adversaries in the course of the film production. Sure, these guys are creeps, but what about the somewhat less complicit mainstream media? Makes ya wonder...
This Criterion DVD includes a great video transfer and a crisp (yet monaural) sountrack -- this was a very low budget film, even by French standards. An interview with the filmmakers is lively yet barely understandable, and their 1989 student short film No C4 for Daniel-Daniel is a telling look at what they would eventually achieve with this film. Also worth noting -- the blood-splattered look of the disc itself (with the center hole an erstwhile bullet hole) is one of the most inventive I've seen.
Aka C'est arrivé près de chez vous , literally It Happened in Your Neighborhood.