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CANNIBAL
DVD. Matchbox Films.

CannibalThe DVD sleeve, the title and the plot synopsis of Cannibal all suggest that this is a horror film. It isn’t. Horrible, perhaps, but no horror film. So if that is what you are looking for, you might as well leave now. In fact, this is a film with little to offer anyone except pseuds who are easily taken in by the smugly self-important – and that’s surely not you, is it?

In theory, Cannibal tells the story of shut-in Max (Nicolas Gob), who finds an unconscious young woman (Helena Coppejeans) out in the woods, and takes her home. The pair start to form a strange relationship – he hates to be touched, she won’t tell him her name, so he calls her Bianca – but things take a dark turn when she flees the house one night, and Max finds her chomping down on some hapless man in the woods. Naturally, this distresses him somewhat, but love will find a way, and before long, he’s taking her out, helping her find men to eat and fuck, and disposing of the bodies. Unfortunately, Bianca is being searched for by an ill-defined bunch of cartoon gangsters, and when they snatch her for their own nefarious purposes, Max has to face the demons of his past to try and rescue her.

All of which could’ve made a fairly solid downbeat thriller. With a bleak sensibility and impressive performances from the two leads as the couple of social misfits, Cannibal has a lot going for it. Unfortunately, it’s all wrecked by writer-director-editor-cameraman (and so certainly the man to blame) Benjamin Vire’s ridiculous pretensions.

As it progresses, Cannibal increasingly feels like a very long and particularly annoying student film, throwing in every trick in the book that short filmmakers use to appear artistic and cover up their shortcomings. There’s the ridiculously exaggerated hand-held camera that, combined with the intense close-ups, reduce much of the ‘action’ to a series of blurry, incoherent images. There’s deliberate blurring of the image, sudden slow-mo, sound drop outs, frame-dropping and duplication… pretty much everything that the director could think of to draw attention to himself. When the final act suddenly switches to black and white (with brief colour flashes, of course), it’s hard to decide whether to laugh or cry as Vires finally sacrifices his own story and possible audience enjoyment to his own ego as he effectively screams “LOOK AT ME! AREN’T I A GREAT CREATIVE ARTIST?”.

Unfortunately, he isn’t. I’m a huge fan of experimental cinema, of films that play with the artifice of filmmaking, but there is a place for that sort of thing – and a skill, and level of original thinking involved in making it work. Jean-Luc Godard can do it; Vire can’t. His film simply feels like a mess that has been designed to dazzle the easily impressed, and one that ultimately fails on all levels. If you are, despite the best efforts of the director, drawn into the story, you’ll inevitably be disappointed, as poor character development and clumsy storyline progression help scupper even this aspect of the film.

Cannibal is a depressing mess of a film that is to genuine art cinema what my drawings of Spider-Man, aged five, were to John Romita’s comic book work – a clumsy, crude and talentless imitation. The only surprise is that Vire doesn’t seem to have a music video background – but that industry, with its sloppy appropriation of art cinema technique for clichéd commercial purposes, seems his ideal destination.

DAVID FLINT

BUY IT NOW (UK)

 

 

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