Man Bites Dog
man bites dog | remy belvaux | andre bonzel | benoit poelvoorde | vincent tavier | jacqueline poelvoorde-pappaert | nelly pappaert | comedy | crime | drama | belgium | found footage | hector pappaert | jenny drye | malou madou | willy vandenbroeck | rachel deman
Film: Man Bites Dog (C'est arrivé près de chez vous)
Director: Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel and Benoît Poelvoorde
Writer: Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, Benoît Poelvoorde and Vincent Tavier
Starring: Benoît Poelvoorde, Jacqueline Poelvoorde-Pappaert and Nelly Pappaert
This was a film that I heard about from a podcast I listen to when they were focusing on just found-footage films. I knew it had some pretty realistic violence and really embodied the feel of the subgenre. My first time seeing this was in the theater when Fright Club showed this at the Gateway Film Center. I then gave it a rewatch when it came up as part of the Summer Series for the Podcast Under the Stairs for the 1990s. I’m now giving it another viewing for Where to Begin with on the TPUTS Collective. The official synopsis is a film crew follows a ruthless thief and heartless killer as he goes about his daily routine. But complications set in when they film crew lose their objectivity and begin lending a hand.
Now this film starts off with our main character, Ben (Benoît Poelvoorde), on a train. He sneaks up behind a woman and strangles her in an empty car. We then see him dispose of the body. He tells us his method of weighing the body down and how much weight needs to be added. He then tosses her into a quarry filled with water. We then meet his family in the store that they run.
Ben is followed by a crew of Remy (Rémy Belvaux), Andre (André Bonzel) and Patrick (Jean-Marc Chenut). Remy is the reporter who occasionally asks questions. I’d even say he’s the director here of the project. There is also Andre who is the cameraman and Patrick is the sound guy. They follow him as he goes around to meet with his friends. It also documents the crimes of murder and theft that he commits as well.
Things do take a turn though he kills the wrong person and threats are sent to those that are close to him. Not only that, the crew starts to get a taste of the things that Ben is doing as well. He also starts to become more unhinged and taking much more dangerous chances to make this documentary about him much more entertaining.
This is a short recap of the film, because a lot of it is just Ben talking to the camera and the crew or interacting with those around him. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this aspect of the film, but his charisma sucked me in. Before seeing this for the first time, the podcasters who introduced us said something about the personality of Ben and they were right. Despite the atrocious acts he is committing, I still felt bad for him at times. He is doing horrible things, but he is charismatic so I feel a connection to him. This doesn’t shock me either as things play out with the crew around him.
What I found interesting about the film is that Ben, Remy and Andre all wrote and directed this film. It was also written by Vincent Tavier who also appears in the film as Vincent. I found it quite intriguing they are in a nutshell just playing a caricature of themselves. This does help with the realism for sure. I know coming in this is a fictional depiction, but it definitely has a feel of realism to it for sure. I’m guessing they are all friends so that comes there.
Something else that struck me was they decided to film it in black and white. I actually really liked this as well, because before I looked at when the film was released, the trailer had a feel of a 1970’s or 80’s film. Coupling that we never see any technology that would make this film be set in present day aside from another camera crew where one of them has a camera that shoots on video. It carries a timeless feel to it. The movie despite being found-footage didn’t have that shaky feel that really can turn me off to them. There naturally is some of that when they’re running or moving fast, but I think this one was shot beautifully still.
I do have to say there was a bit of a pacing issue I had. It is surprising though since the film has such a low running time. It runs around 90 minutes, but I think a lot of it is that focused a bit too much on Ben. Now I know I said earlier in this that he captivates me. He did, but the problem was it just goes on too long of getting him talking to the camera. The film does still build tension and some of that comes from the crew knowing what he is capable of and fearing that he will turn on them at some point. I did think that the ending as it is fitting for what would happen to someone like this. I had a feeling one of two things would happen and both of them did. That did surprise me.
Acting for the film is quite interesting as well. I thought the acting despite being amateur fits perfectly for this style and I thought it was believable. I’ve already touched on Benoît Poelvoorde. He becomes this character and his personality was perfect for it. Some of the heinous acts he commits makes me despise him, but I still felt myself wanting to see what he’d do next. The crew I thought was all solid as well. I need to shout out Belvaux. His character is more than any of the crew is in forefront as the reporter. It is interesting to see him get caught up in the things that he does, but I liked we see him revert back the next time a choice comes up. I found it quite realistic to someone who gets caught up and then feels guilty. The rest of the crew I thought rounded out the film well.
The effects for the film were also something that really impressed me. We don’t get a lot of them and some of them are hidden with the film being in black and white. There are gunshots and other attacks on people that looked real. They were definitely done practically. The blood looked good for being in black and white, but it is hard to mess that up. We don’t linger on it to critique which works in its favor. There is one despicable scene and the aftermath of that had me go numb. I would have to commend them for that reaction.
Something that I am curious how it would work with the sound design for found-footage films. This one was excellent. There is a scene inside of a large warehouse where the crew splits up. I bring this up, because the sound guy moves away from Ben. I love that we can’t hear him while the sound guy is away. It makes it seem like they are really filming a documentary. There isn’t much in the way of a soundtrack as everything is ambient. I thought this helped with the realism of the film.
Now with that said, I found this to be a good film. It is an interesting found-footage look if someone was insane in your neighborhood and decided to do whatever they wanted to do. The realism of the acts he commits and seeing those that are following him get sucked into the lawlessness he is living is interesting. It makes you wonder what you’d do if you followed him around as much as they do. I thought the acting was fitting for what was needed. The effects were good and the film looks amazing. The sound design is perfect for the type of film. I actually think this is a good movie, but not for everyone with what happens in the film. I will warn you; this film is from France so I had to watch it with subtitles on. If that is an issue, I’d avoid this one for sure.
My Rating: 8 out of 10