Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Mondo Cane (1962, Paolo Cavara, Gualtiero Jacopetti, Franco Prosperi)
Much has been written about Mondo Cane (pronounced Mondo Cah-Nay for those who want to impress their friends or not look like an idiot in front of them). This film was the catalyst that started the whole "mondo" genre of shocking documentaries that feature footage of (mostly) real life rituals, oddities and atrocities performed around the world. I have seen two other films by "shock-doc" film makers Jacopetti and Prosperi (Africa Addio and Goodbye Uncle Tom) and figured I should finally see the one that started it all.
Mondo Cane (Italian for Dog's World or Dog's Life) is a collection of random scenes from all over the world, displaying different cultures and their practices. The main purpose of the film is to show that what one culture views as normal or second nature, another culture may view as shocking or disgusting. In the film, you will see some interesting foods, rituals performed by aboriginal tribes, a pissed off bull kicking ass and taking names, Rudolph Valentino get de-clothed by a horde of women, some sea turtles beaching themselves, a woman breast feeding a pig, cows being massaged to make their beef more tender, and much more.
As shocking as Mondo Cane was (or is rumored to be - it wasn't really), it was actually quite beautiful and breath-taking. Riz Ortolani's Grammy/Oscar nominated score is one of the greatest I've ever heard in any film and the camerawork is also quite amazing. I'm sure part of the directors' intentions were to take these revolting scenes and make them as beautiful as possible - perhaps to play with the viewers' senses or just to give them an unconventional experience. Regardless of what their intentions were, Mondo Cane works. It moves along at a steady pace with only a couple slow parts and is particularly well executed all around. Some parts of the film feel as though they were made today (as opposed to 48 years ago) and some are a little more dated. Despite some minor flaws, Mondo Cane is a film that cult and exploitation fans should love, if only to see where some of the genres got their ideas to shock (particularly the Italian Cannibal genre).