Man Bites Dog – A DVD Review

Aug 25, 2010 by Tom Jones

Man Bites Dog (C’est arrivé près de chez vous – the original title), produced in 1993, is a wild ride into mayhem, murder, and hilarity. Ben (Benoît Poelvoorde) is a serial killer, bon vivant, intellectual and arts lover, loving son, nephew, and grandson.

The movie’s premise and story is too clever by half. Its genres range from comedy, crime, comedy, thriller and drama.

As we as a society become increasingly numb, and relish in the decadence of violence in the media and entertainment, three filmmakers from Belgium, directors and actors, Rémy Belvaux André Bonzel and Benoît Poelvoorde, filmed on a shoe string budget a prophetic movie, which proceeds to turn our world upside down by having a film crew, André (André Bonzel) and Rémy, (Rémy Belvaux), document the carnage, murder, and methodology of Ben’s gruesome “activities.”

As their involvement evolves from objectivity to active complicity, the viewer understands that boundaries are crossed; and that no matter how preposterous the story becomes, by and because the imaginary documentary filmmakers increasingly turn from documentations into accessories to Ben’s murders, we come to realize that this hugely satirical gallows humor movie, is noteworthy in many ways:

Its masquerade as cinéma vérité and shot in black and white, serves only to raise the bar on its mocking point of view and themes of the complexity of intellect versus our base instincts, the role of the artist and media from observer to active participants and how witty a serial killer can be.

Even more relevant, are the producers of violent movies, video games, and television content as precursors or story tellers to how people psychologically, subconsciously and unconsciously interpret whether the messages shoved down their throats will result in their being pro-active or reactive as to their own interpretation of violence.

Man Bites Dog is part of the Criterian Collection which, since 1984, has assembled an astute and critical library of important classic and contemporary films, which have been dedicated to gathering the greatest movies from around the world.

Controversial winner of the International Critics’ Prize at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, Man Bites Dog stunned audiences worldwide with its unflinching imagery and biting satire of media violence.

The phrase “Man bites Dog describes a observable fact in reporting and journalism in which an unusual and infrequent event is more likely to be reported as news than an ordinary, everyday occurrence (such as Dog bites man).

If two stories are compared next to each other, and taking into account the increasingly biased and lazy reporting notwithstanding, it’s the context and content of the “normal” story that’s less likely to be reported, and the “abnormal” story is what holds sway for coverage.

In the movie Man Bites Dog, the violence is secondary to the plot because we come to expect it as normal and that its provocative, outrageous, and complex, gives it its character and story, time and identity, and use of the media as the arbiter—but in this movie, the arbiter is morally bankrupt.

The "Man Bites dog" trope–the principle of organization according to which matter moves to form an object during the various stages of its existence– is an anti-cliché that consists of varying the meaning of a cliché by exchanging the arrangement of the two main nouns, inverting their roles—hence “Man Bites Dog,” instead of “Dog bites Man.”

Since the man bites dog trope overturns the meaning of the original sentence, it’s often used in satire and comedy. This trope has some similarities with anastrophe; however, antistrophes, being schemes, don’t change the meaning of the sentence and just operate on the syntax.

Man Bites Dog is a wild ride of ennui, realism and a deep fecund wound which exemplifies our violent society and those who supply our content that makes it such; yet it’s us who are its consumers.

As the saying goes, it takes two to tango.

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