Friday, April 30, 2010

Andrei Tarkovsky vs. Lucio Fulci


There’s an old rumour on the Internet that originates from one of Andrei Tarkovsky’s diary entries that tells of a horror film he once saw at the cinema whilst shooting Nostalghia in Italy.

Supposedly the film was Lucio Fulci’s epic Zombi2 and in his journal Tarkovsky wrote:

5 September, Rome:
… We saw Zombie II – science fiction horror film.
Ghastly; replusive trash.
(Time within Time : Diaries, 1970-86 Pub: Faber and Faber)


Well who am I to argue with the great Andrei Tarkovsky really?

But as I know my Tarkovsky just as well as my Fulci, I have a hunch that something isn’t quite right in that passage of text. I have a problem with the dates, as they don’t add up...

Fulci’
s Zombi 2 was released in 1979, and Tarkovsky shot Nostalghia in 1983. In 1979 Tarkovsky was shooting the masterpiece STALKER, and in 1983 Fulci was up to his neck with the sci-fi peplum Conquest.

Unless there was a very unlikely Fulci retrospective going on at the time, it probably can’t have been Zombi 2 that Tarkovsky saw. Although there is a possibility that he may have seen the movie at a private screening, after all this was Tarkovsky making a movie in Italy, and I’m sure that he got what he wanted, but why on earth a Fulci movie?

We may never know, but instead I’m holding a theory that whilst in Rome location scouting for Nostalghia a year or two before production – he was a perfectionist, he did stuff like that - Tarkovsky attended a screening of Lucio Fulci’s E tu vivrai nel terrore – L’alidà 1981, better known as THE BEYOND!

Shocked by the images he saw in THE BEYOND Tarkovsky felt the need to exorcise the terrifying insight he had just gained, that this fantastic Italian movie was using the exact same images and symbolism to tell a similar tale as his STALKER. So he trashed the film in his journals and freeing himself of the underlying fear of Fulci’s impending rivalry focused on his own movie production instead.

But what evidence do I have for this extraordinary theory and conclusion? It’s simple, I’ll show you the themes and the images, and I’ll place the dots and let you connect them, as you too will feel a tremendous rush of insight as this all comes clear...


1. SEPIA TINTED OPENING.


2. RECURRENT DRIPPING AND FLOWING WATER


3. BRIGHT EYED CHARACTER WHO WALKS FREELY BETWEEN THE TWO WORLDS


4. FRAME WITHIN THE FRAME


5. ROOMS FLOODED WITH MURKY WATER


6. WEIRD ALSATIAN DOG THAT TURNS UP OUT OF NOWHERE


7. DESOLATE BUILDING OF IMPORTANCE ON THE ROAD TO DESTINATION


8. FREAKY STUFF SUBMERGED IN WATER


9. STRONG USE OF SHADOWS IN THREATENING SITUATIONS


10. SUDDEN STORMS & THUNDER UNDERGROUND AS CLIMAX APPROACHES


11. CREEPY GINGER HAIRED KID WITH FRECKLES


12. THE DEADLIEST PLACE LOOKS LIKE A CRAP BEACH


You see! The evidence talks for itself...


Well if you’ve got this far, it’s time for the reveal. In reality Tarkovsky had talked of making a movie in Italy for several years, and his diary journals often refer to trips to Italy on various projects. It’s also a fact that he spent several longer periods of time there during the late seventies before actually filming there. So Tarkovsky probably did see Fulci’s epic Zombi2, but already in 1979, and not during the production of Nostalghia as the common Internet rumour claims. In a fascinating way I can’t help but feel pride on Fulci’s behalf as he directed a movie so terrifying and revolting that the great Andrei Tarkovsky actually made a note of it in his journals. Now that’s what I call making an impression.

Have a great Walpurigsnacht!

The Beast



The Beast
Original Title: La Bête
Directed by: Walerian Borowczyk
France, 1975
Drama/Erotic/Horror, 95min
Distributed by: Studio S. Entertainment


One of the most notorious Art house / Exploitation flicks of all time has to be Walerian Borowczyk’s The Beast. With it’s surreal narrative and provocative content it’s one of those movies that walks a very thin line between art and trash. You know what my take on that whole debate is, and it is indeed up to each and everyone to come to their own insight of Walerian Borowczyk work – is it art or is it trash?


Personally that’s an easy one; Borowczyk’s films will always tend to be art in my eyes. Perhaps even the really trashy ones at the end of his career. Because Borowczyk’s films are heavy on symbolism, especially artistic symbolism, frequently you will see referents to pieces of art that are relevant to the plot or narrative. He also uses a strong set of themes through his works – greed, sexuality and surrealism – much like his earlier animation. There’s also a constant pessimism in his works, which also is an important theme for Borowczyk. There’s rarely an upbeat happy ending to his movies, instead characters all fail due to their own demands, insatiability and lust.

The Beast is a grand movie indeed. It’s not the horrifying piece of smut that its reputation claims it to be. Instead it’s in many ways a hilarious movie and also a sad melancholic tale of love, lust and secrets best left undisclosed. Quick fix coming your way: At a desolate château in France the de l’Esperance family are on their last legs. They have reached financial rock bottom and as a last resort to solve them patriarch Pierre [Guy Tréjan] has encouraged his son Mathurin [Pierre Benedetti] to get engaged to a wealthy foreigners daughter. The two have never met, and have only ever communicated through letters written to each other. Pierre’s Uncle, Rammedelo De Balo [Marcel Dalio – who starred in Jean Renoir’s magnificent Grand Illusion 1937] objects to the wedlock, as he is convinced that it’s wrong and that it will reveal their terrible family secret that they have been hiding for centuries. Mathurin’s bride to be Lucy Broadhurst [Danish former fashion model Lisbeth Hummel] and her aunt Virginia [Elisabeth Kaza] arrive at the chateau after a brief stint of getting lost allowing Lucy to run around the tight forest shooting Polaroid’s of nature and the surrounding location. Finally they arrive at the stables, where Mathurin with an arm in a plaster cast and a grand beard is supervising the mating process of the family horses. Lucy is fascinated by the scene she see’s and shoot’s several photographs of the activities making up her own Polaroid gallery of natural erotica. This is significant as it also represents the withheld sexual frustration that Lucy carries with her through out the movie. As they all gather at the chateau, Pierre takes it upon himself to clean up and shave the bestial looking Mathurin and has the local priest attend to baptise Mathurin as to wash away all his original sins and possibly lift the secret curse that Rammedelo keeps on ranting about. At the same time Rammedello starts telling the story of Romilda de l’Eserance [Finnish former model Sirpa Lane who stared in a handful of European Sexploitation films] to Lucy and her Aunt, and as Lucy fascinated by the tale starts investigating the house she finds several pieces of erotic art portraying bestiality.

One of the conditions posed by Lucy’s deceased father is that Cardinal Joseph De Balo perform the ceremony, but there’s grit in the machinery as the Cardinal obviously has a problem with the rest of his family and refuses to answer his brother Rammendelo’s calls. But Pierre’s greed and lust for fortune once again stops at nothing and after forcing Rammendelo to call repetitively he finally sends a telegram requesting the Cardinal to attend. It’s the same greed that later makes him conduct terrible acts against his family – remember I said that among common Borowczyk themes you’ll find greed and it will bring downfall, well it all happens in The Beast.

After a very Buñuellian dinner party where Virginia reads out the demands – not only the request of cardinal De Balo, but also that the wedding take place no later than the 1st of May – today in reality and in the movie – Pierre’s insatiable greed ends up with Mathurin completely loosing it and being sent to bed. Which the others also find a grand idea and all go for an afternoon nap. Lucy fascinated by her the books she’s found, and her private collection of kinky Polaroid’s, starts to slumber and dreams of the passages in Romilda de l’Esperance’s journals that she read earlier on. The passage with illustrations of the beast she supposedly met out there in the woods, and the sentence “I met it, and I beat it” and ironically my translation also lets you in on what eventually will happen as the erotic dream of Lucy’s comes to a climax. In the dream she see’s Romilda following a small lamb into the woods, only to discover that it’s been butchered by the beast. The beast then starts to chase Romilda and the deeper into the forest they get, the more of her clothing is torn off, and for each garment, the beast becomes further aroused. You can guess where this is going to go can’t you! This sequence, possibly the most iconic and discussed scene of Borowczyk’s works is then cross cut with the closing climax of the main narrative – Pierre’s greed for wealth, and Lucy’s restrained sexual lust. Coming to a climax on several levels at once, the terrible secret of the de l’Esperance family is revealed and the Broadhurst's leave France shocked and disgusted beyond belief, but certainly an experience richer.

It’s been years since I last saw The Beast, and it was nothing like I recalled it at all. I remembered it as a quite tacky, slow and dull. But instead I find a rather entertaining and amusing little piece that is a fascinating film indeed. It plays out almost like a sort of weird combination of art house abstracts and exploitation traits coming together in a satirical farce. It’s understandable that Borowczyk films are compared to earlier works of Buñuel. The above-mentioned themes are all there – greed, sexuality, surrealism and the pessimistic cynicism. I see a lot of parallels between the works that Peter Greenaway would start exploring in the mid eighties and the early movies of Borowczyk, which once again stings like salt in the wounds of the Borowczyk saga, as by then the shock of insight that porn was a bad thing and not a chic art happening had washed over and strong adult themes could be explored more freely within the art house world once again. I’m glad that there’s finally a renaissance of sorts for Borowczyk work as there have been several releases of his pieces on DVD over the last few years.

Now they let’s cast our selves back to the early seventies and check out the genesis of The Beast. In 1972, producer Anatole Dauman, no not some sleazy smut peddler, but a producer of high end art pieces – Alan Resnais Hiroshima mon amour 1959, Chris Marker’s stunning La jetée 1962, Jean-Luc Godard’s Masculin feminine: 15 faits précis 1966, Nagisa Ôshima’s Ai no corrida (In the Realm of the Senses) 1976 and Ai no borei (In the Realm of Passion) 1978, Volker Schlöndorff’s Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum) 1979, and Wim Wender’s Paris, Texas 1984 and the magnificent Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire) 1989 – to name a hand full of his eminent movies, was producing a movie that he wasn’t quite satisfied with and asked Borowczyk to come up with some ideas. Borowczyk then directed a possible new ending for the film based on French dramatist Prosper Mérimée’s text Lokis and added some adult themes to the story of man/bear in the shape of a young maiden in distress… The director of the original movie refused to have anything to do with an erotic climax added to his movie and took Dauman and Argos Films to court to prohibit them from tampering with his vision. So as a result Dauman took his name off the movie and it disappeared into the vaults of absence from that day. Bad career move for a first time director in my opinion, but at least he got to direct a documentary on Jean-Luc Godard some thirty years later.
So instead Dauman suggested that they use the short and make a movie exploring sexuality through various time periods. The material was reedited and named La véritable historie de la bête du Gévaudan (The True Story of the Beast of Gévaudan) a play on the legend of the Beast of Gévaudan, a man eating wolf kind of creatures that supposedly roamed the mid-southern parts of France in the 17th century. A beast and legend that Christophe Gans based his 2001 flick Le Pacte des loups (Brotherhood of the Wolf) on, but that time they kept their costumes on.
The True Story of the Beast of Gévaudan was at one time was supposed to be one sixth of Borowczyk’s Contes immoraux (Immoral Tales) 1974. But for reasons still not disclosed it obviously wasn’t part of Immoral Tales, and instead Borowczyk, just like Jean Rollin with Perdues dans New York (Lost in New York) 1989 and Les trottoirs de Bangkok (Sidewalks of Bangkok) 1984, came up with a story in which he could use the short as an erotic fantasy instead. Said and done, a wrap around narrative was shot and the footage finally had a place to unleash all it’s bestial lust, the infamous La Bête!

Yes, The Beast is a pretty lusty movie, lusty in the same sense a large majority of those mid-seventies EuroArt flicks can be. Arty provocation, mocking, teasing, suggestive and some outstanding cinematography, here by Marcel Gingon and Bernard Daillencourt – who shot several of Borowczyk’s films. But one thing I can’t really understand is how anyone can, or could be offended by the dream sequences, because in all honesty that footage is more comical than of some stirring taboo laden sexual nature. There’s no way you can watch that sequence and not be amused by it. It’s definitely not an arousing scene, but definitely a cheeky comedic one. I definitely hold it amongst stunning visuals like the Devil pooping out clergymen in Pasolini’s Il Decameron 1971 or Shirô’s [Shigeru Amachi] decent to Hell in Nobou Nakagawa’s Jigoku (The Sinners of Hell) 1960, it’s the reveal of the Bourgeoisie seated on toilet bowls during their banquet in Buñuel’s Le fantome de la liberté (The Phantom of Liberty) 1974 or the sudden appearance of Jayne Eyre in flames in Godard’s Week End 1967. It’s the kind of stuff that art house cinema is made of. It’s shocking, surreal and something mind expanding that will stick with you for life.

It would be easy to read The Beast as a male rape fantasy if your into that kind of pseudo psychological stuff, but before you go any further, I’ll tell you that there’s even a way of interpreting the daydream as a metaphor for Female liberation. As the scene evolves Romilda turns the tables on the beast and after emancipating herself of her time period chains – gowns, tight corset, wig – she becomes the insistent one and dominates the beast into death through her insatiability. We all know from Freudian analysis that many great artists are terrified of female power, and in some way there’s an irony that the movies frequently accused of being demeaning towards women are the ones that contain the strongest examples of women. Women, who hold the power to give and take life. Which kind of brings The Beast full circle, it starts with life being created, and ends with a life being lost. Life and Death, isn’t that what all the great stories are about when you narrow it down to the core?

It’s rather tragic that the movie caused such an outcry and was banned in several countries, for decades even in the UK. Because it’s a great movie that you can’t take too seriously, it’s not there to be takes seriously either. It’s merely proving that art doesn’t have to be intellectual, complex, serious and deep, it can be fun, evocative, light hearted and preposterous - which is exactly how you should view Walerian Borowczyk’s sensuous farce The Beast.


Image:
Widescreen: Anamorphic 1.66:1

Audio:
Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0, Italian, French and English Dialogue, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Finnish Subtitles optional.

Extras:
There’s a short document, Borowczyk’s Folly, produced by Cashiers du Cinema that tells the genesis of the beast and gives a great insight and explanation to why Borowczyk shot the short, why it never appeared as part of Immoral Tales and yet further ways to read the movie. The Theatrical Trailer, Borowczyk bio and filmography, photo gallery and trailers for other Studio S releases.

Here's Jarvis Cocker of Pulp sharing his impression of The Beast.

Walerian Borowczyk's La Bête is due for Scandinavian release through the good people at Studio S Entertainment on the 12th of May 2010, and can easily be picked up from Sub DVD.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cannibal Holocaust


Cannibal Holocaust
Directed by: Ruggero Deodato
Italy 1980
Horror/Cannibals, 95min

The cannibal genre, an odd little bastard offspring in Italian film cinema that definitely left it’s mark and still today seems to be one of the most provocative of them all. It’s hard to believe that a string of movies made some thirty years ago still have the ability to provoke people in the way that the cannibal films did.

Such a great little macabre niche that it's still packs a hard punch to the gut and Italian genre directors are finding there way back there once again...

With their roots on the Mondo genre, and a pretty successful run of movies both predating and following the outstanding Cannibal Holocaust – among them Umberto Lenzi’s infamous ”banned in 37 countries” epic Cannibal Ferox, (Make Them Die Slowly) 1981 – but it’s only Cannibal Holocaust that tries to do something different within it’s own genre. It aims a critique towards the genre, the Mondo films, and even towards itself.

Here’s a quick fix to set you up – although I doubt that you really need one…

Getting quickly into the plot, the film starts with a news report on documentary filmmaker Alan Yates [Carl Gabriel Yorke who at times reassembles a young Tom Cruise] gone missing in the jungle during the shoot of his new production “The Green Hell” A few moments later and anthropologist Harold Monroe [Robert Kerman – who later starred in Umberto Lenzi’s Magiati vivi! (Eaten Alive) 1980 Cannibal Ferox (Make Them Die Slowly) 1981] is assigned to find the team. Travelling deep into the jungle with a constant affirmation of how dangerous and threatening the place is – like witnessing the cruel ritualistic punishment for adultery - they make contact with the Yucamo tribe. Continuing the narrative device of laying out question marks the tribe chief in his native tongue tries to tell them what has happened in the partially destroyed village. After witnessing combat between the rival cannibal tribes The Swamp People (Shamatari) and the Tree people (Yanomamo) they intervene and make friends with the Yanomamo tribe, gradually becoming accepted by them and finally being given the lost film stock of the Yates expedition – after Monroe chomps down on human flesh. So far we fear what has happened to the members of the expedition and empathize with them because of the possible fate they met, there’s a natural curiosity that wants to find out if they are alive and what has happened, but that will all change pretty soon…

Back in New York Monroe is thrown onto TV shows for interviews and used as part of the promotion ahead of the premier broadcast of the Yates documentary. He’s asked by the Pan American Broadcast Company to assist in the assembly and completion of the Yates material, and he agrees on the terms that he as an anthropology professor can review all the footage first. At first the footage shows the happy team going about normal life, preparing for their shoot and candidly joking with each other. Monroe and the editor laugh at the material and we still empathize for the filmmakers. But soon there’s a dark side to the expedition that starts to surface in the material. Moving at high speed and primarily filling in the narrative question marks the notorious animal carnage begins with Alan Yates shouting out directions on what to shoot with the cameras. We start to question the filmmakers, and loose some of the empathy we have had towards them. The scenes of depravity and dark cynicism of director Yates who stops at nothing to provoke illustrious footage for his production, becomes more and more shocking, and Monroe decides that this footage is so disturbing and unethical that it would be an inhuman to air it on television. But the executives know the sensationalistic value of the material the are sitting on and refuse to not air the documentary, so Monroe is left with no further option that to show them the two reels of footage that not even the editors dared show them. The magnum opus of atrocities where the cynical Alan Yates stops at nothing to provoke the most exclusive material he ever could even if it costs him the life of his team and friends… At this point the audience is rooting for the cannibals, we want those fiendish filmmakers punished – it’s the miracle of movie manipulation taking place. Reaching its climax the executives are left silent in shock and repulsion before ordering the destruction of all the footage. Harold Monroe leaves the broadcast offices posing the question “I wonder who the real cannibals are?”

In every possible way Cannibal Holocaust is one of the most notorious films to come out of Italy, and with out a doubt one of the most important pieces of that small subgenre known as the cannibal films. Instead of being the common straightforward movie, packing a classic action narrative and gut-munch-a-go-go, it instead points sharp critique against the movies that they had been churning out in that odd little niche.

Coming off The Concorde Affair 1979 Deodato was approached by producers to make a movie in the style of his earlier flick Ultimo mondo cannibale (Last Cannibal World) 1977. Said and done, location scouting started, and equipped with an extremely potent script written once again by Gianfranco Clerici and Deodato, production on Cannibal Holocaust started in June 1979.

The ”documentary style” footage of Allan Yates expedition was first to roll through the cameras, but after only few days of filming, the actor originally cast as the lead antagonist Yates quit the movie, which had the shoot come to a grinding halt as they all awaited re-casts and hoped to find a new leading man. Finally Carl Gabriel Yorke arrived on set, and armed with their 16mm cameras they roamed through the jungles of Leticia, Colombia near the Amazonas shooting that fascinating material of animal cruelty, arranged provocations, candid sexuality, rape, and all the shocking atrocities that make up that offensive material.

But where many other movies in the Exploitation genre are made with a smile on their faces, the production of Cannibal Holocaust suffered from an extreme tense atmosphere as the cast and crew started to realise what they where getting themselves into. Authentic animal cruelty, frequent cast nudity, and the harrowing location added to the already tense shoot, and needless to say not to many of the cast and crew had much care for each other at the end of production – rather the opposite. And most fingers pointed straight at Ruggero Deodato, accusing him of being callous, heartless genuine bastard. If you have ever met Mr. Deodato you will know that this image is nowhere near the impression that this polite gent gives – well not off set at least. It’s quite possible that Deodato, fully aware that his movie would provoke not only cinema audiences, but also the makers of the movies that the film criticized, and the industry he was working in, and realised that he was in a very compromising situation. And the producers back in Italy where going wild as they watched rushes, screaming aloud for more, More, MORE!

Never the less five weeks in the Colombian jungle and a week in New York and Rome later, the movie was in the can and if the anxious atmosphere on set was an issue, it was still nothing compared to what was to come. After premiering in Milan, Italy early 1980, Cannibal Holocaust only played for ten days before it was taken off the screen and into court. Charges where filed against as they believed the film was an authentic snuff piece, but after presenting proof that the actors, and the iconic impaled woman, where indeed alive and well, the case was dismissed. But due to the raw nature of the animal killings the movie was still a sensitive issue, and it remained banned in Italy for another four years. Needless to say the movie faced serious censorship problems outside of Italy too and ended up being banned in several countries or even worse released after some serious cut where made.

One of the main reasons that Cannibal Holocaust caused such an outrage – apart from the apparent animal cruelty - is all due to the magic of filmmaking. The provocative and very realistic” documentary footage” causes a mind set that the stuff we are watching is real. As the quality and grain of the material we are seeing changes we believe that what is shown is actually real documentary footage, and is further enhanced as we see cinematographers and equipment in shot on several occasions. Also there’s an innovative use of dialogue that set’s up this little trick. Several times as we go to, and from the 16mm footage there’s technical dialogue presented, “I’ve added some archive music for effect” “This first segment is silent” “Remember this is a very rough cut, almost like watching rushes” “ There should be some sound coming in now…” etc. There are also audio flaws, damage and scratches to the film stock, which help to sell the fantastic illusion that the footage is real.

There’s also a magnificent narrative going on in Cannibal Holocaust. Deodato has through the Professor Monroe scenes, planted several questions and referents that later will be answered and revealed as we start going through the documentary footage. Early on they find the body of the Yates expedition’s guide Miguel, and Chaco, Monroe’s guide say’s “I wonder what mistake he made to end up dead…” They find the carcass of a giant river turtle… this and other questions delicately planted, build a natural suspense and curiosity that draws the viewer in to the narrative.

The ingenious use of a non-linear narrative is brilliant. Posing questions in the first half only to answer them in the later creates a constant forward motion throughout the movie that keeps it moving rapidly, and interesting. Added to that non-linear narrative there’s every now and again a line of dialogue or two to raise new questions and look ahead; “What happened here…?” “You think that was bad? Alan could do much worse!” “You haven’t even seen the stuff your editors didn’t dare show you!” Which drives the movie forth and suggests even worse material to come, creating a natural anticipation with the viewer. Cannibal Holocaust has some very effective dialogue, which contributes to the narrative, in a many ways adds to making the movie stand out amongst the other pieces in the niche. But it doesn’t stop there, Deodato stays true to the illusion that the film is for real and sets it up with tests at the opening and ending of the movie – “For the sake of authenticity, some of the sequences have been retained in their entirety” is stated in the opening, and works just like those great lines of dialogue. As the movie comes to it’s end, the following text is resented "Projectionist John K. Kirov was given a two-month suspended sentence and fined $10,000 for illegal appropriation of film material. We know that he received $250,000 for the same footage." Still staying with the illusion this gives something of an open ending, for even though the cynical TV producers may have come to insight and demanded that the footage be destroyed, the editor who we saw in the movie didn’t and corrupted by the power of exploitation he sold the footage into others hands. It keeps the line between fact and fiction blurry, which is a condition for the movie to work.

With that said, it is also of significance to point out that the animal cruelty is part of that same narrative, as it is the killings that sell the illusion of the violent deaths at the last half of the film. The movie may have worked without the animal deaths, or less of them, but that authenticity is what makes us believe the atrocities and carnage that are presented. It’s a brilliant piece of filmmaking that still to this day is very effective, and I challenge anyone who has not seen it yet to watch it and walk away unaffected. It is not possible.

Technically the movie is amazing, there’s the contrasting hand held 16mm vs. the solid, stable 35mm shot by cinematographer Sergio D’Offizi [Lucio Fulci’s The Eroticist & Non si sevizia un paperino (Don’t Torture a Duckling) 1972 and later that year Deodato’s La casa sperduta nel parco (House on the Edge of the Park) 1980] and masterfully edited by Fulci’s editor Vincenzo Tomassi who undoubtedly was a valuable part of bringing the realism of this magnificent movie to life. There’s the great performances by the unknown actors Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen, Luca Barbareschi and Carl Gabriel Yorke. Even former adult actor Robert Kerman sells the part – even though the movie didn’t give him the big break in serious acting that he wanted and returned to the adult industry. It’s almost like watching clockworks where everything perfectly fits into each other to make the motion flow smoothly.

On that critique against the genre – well it’s easy to find it when you are looking for it. In the genesis of Cannibal Holocaust it’s said that Deodato was inspired by two things: one claims he watched news reports with his son and realised that all the reporting was focusing on the violence and not the stories behind the events, which lead him to suspect that some stories where arranged in attempts to create more sensational material. The second is that he saw a documentary on the same topic that Cannibal Holocaust is about – the transmission of missing footage, and it’s said that what was shown on TV was much worse than anything in the movie.

And that’s where the critique is found. Just as the Mondo genre also staged, arranged and provoked sensationalistic material, this is what Alan Yates and his team do too. There are several referrals to becoming famous and receiving an Oscar for their material. There’s a cynicism there - fame and fortune, but at what cost. This line of questioning returns several times and it’s also apparent when Monroe starts going through the footage and the TV executives start drooling over the sensational footage they are holding. They even show him Yates previous movie “The Road to Hell” – which uses the exact same font as the opening sequence of Cannibal Holocaust, all to expand on the illusion that it’s all real - which too has authentic executions. But the executives make sure to point out that Yates staged it all as Yates “knew what he was after”. This also rings true for the Mondo genre, which frequently was questioned. But the TV executives, just like exploitation film producers can only see the profits in the material and do not care much for Monroe’s objecting until they are forced to see the material. But the question remains –at what cost can we continue producing exploitative entertainment? This is best exemplified in that last line of dialogue “I Wonder who the real Cannibals are?” It invites the viewers to look inwards and question themselves, and realise that the rhetoric question is posed to us.

One of the most remarkable things with Cannibal Holocaust is the ironic melancholy that Riz Ortolani’s splendid soundtrack brings with it. Appreciating the contrast of harsh imagery set against soft gentle music found in Cavara/Jacopetti/Prosperi's Mondo Cane 1962, Deodato approached Ortolani to compose a score reminiscent of that soundtrack, specifically the track More - nominated for an Academy Award and at one time covered by the great Frank Sinatra - and the result is one of the best scores ever composed. A magnificent piece of work that at times is romantically naïve and mordantly primal, great stuff.

There’s no way around it, Cannibal Holocaust is a fantastic piece of cinema without even cramming it into any specific genre slot. It’s disturbing, harrowing, transgressive, revolting and at times sarcastically comical in the darkest way, and a damned fine movie still to this day. It makes no difference what ever little niche you may be into, Cannibal Holocaust touches on them all, and it is a masterpiece of cinema that desperately needs to be re-evaluated and placed amongst the great classics of celluloid history.

There are currently several releases of this eminent movie available, with a varied amount of extras to each release. The only thing you need to be sure of, is that you buy the uncut version, if you don’t already have it that is. If not, you know what your next purchase should be.