MAN BITES DOG (C'EST ARRIVE PRES DE CHEZ VOUS) (director/writer: Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel and Benoit Poelvoorde; screenwriters: Vincent Tavier/based on an idea by Remy Belvaux; cinematographer: Andre Bonzel; editors: Eric Dardill/Remy Belvaux; music: Jean-Marc Chenut; cast: Benoit Poelvoorde (Ben), Jacqueline Poelvoorde (Ben's Mother), Nelly Pappaert (Ben's Grandmother), Hector Pappaert (Ben's Grandfather), Jenny Drye (Jenny), Malou Madou (Maloy), Willy Vanderbroeck (Boby), Rachel Deman (Mamie Tromblon), Remy Belvaux (Reporter), Andre Bonzel (Cameraman); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel and Benoit Poelvoorde; Criterion Collection; 1992-Belgium-in French with English subtitles)

"It proves that a catchy title does not necessarily make for a good movie."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A controversial no-budget mockumentary directed and produced by the Belgians Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel and Benoit Poelvoorde, that's meant as a brutal satire on media violence. It weighs in on the world-wide debate that violent movies cause a spike in real-life violence, without ever saying that there are many motives for increased violence that range from people being evil to mentally deranged to opportunistic criminals. The faux documentary has a film crew, cameraman Andre Bonzel and soundman Remy Belvaux, follow the glib, attention-grabbing, narcissistic, psychopathic serial killer Ben (Benoit Poelvoorde) around town as he boasts of past crimes and commits new ones. As a kicker, the film crew goes from neutral reporters to Ben's accomplices. The cheerful Ben is killing people for their money and gloating about his prowess, and is disgustingly filmed throughout carrying out such dastardly deeds. 

It's an example of guerilla filmmaking at its worst, that when done in the 1990s was new and had shock value but when seen over twenty years later has lost its bite. It proves that a catchy title does not necessarily make for a good movie. I found it unwatchable; it was annoying to the point I stopped watching it critically. I never could find a reason to justify watching such an ugly conceit, one that was on shaky grounds morally and intellectually. The perverse subject matter, the manipulative nature of the project and the absurd story line were turn-offs. The central point made that those who watch violence on film without resisting are in a sense complicit in the violence, seemed like an untrue and dumb generalization to make--and one that's so far off base that even the filmmakers back off it. The problem is the filmmaker comes up with no valid academic reason or POV to explain such violence, when seemingly the film's purpose was to do just that.

This is sicko cinema-verite film, shot in a grainy black-and-white. I found its black comedy merely disagreeable. By just shooting for shock value and entertainment, the violence comes across as cartoonish and not as horrifying or as thought-provoking as watching the news highlights of some real-life deranged killer in action.

REVIEWED ON 7/24/2012       GRADE: C-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"