Friday, 21 September 2012

Cannibal Man (1973)

Don't be put off by the title, and don't expect to see one of those people going up the Amazon and meeting cannibal type movies. Cannibal Man is an intelligent and addictive Spanish movie surrounding a man and his terrible secret, furthermore it's about relationships and struggling with sexuality in a time in Spain's history where its population could not have been as free as it might like. Except for one rather minor level the movie has little to do with cannibalism, and the "man" in question certainly is not a cannibal in the sense that we might understand the title to convey. But something on a deeper level is that until the 1980's Spanish movies failed to satisfy either US or UK audiences, made in 1983 in my opinion this was the best Spanish made up to the period that Spanish movies became more fashionable, and even now is one of the best movies (again in my opinion) in Spanish movie history.

Marcos (Vincente Parra) leads a mundane life; his home is a shack in the middle of a development area; his job a cleaner in a slaughter house. On the good side he has no real worries and a girlfriend who loves him, Marcos has high hopes to get above the level of cleaner and earn more money so that he and Paula can marry. When Paula and Marcos head off to the cinema for a night out, their later walk finds them far from the City limits and so are relieved to find a passing taxi. With never any opportunity for a quick kiss Marco and Paula share a kiss in the back of the Taxi and in doing so offend the driver who kicks them out only a short way into their journey.  Having refused to pay the driver for not taking them where they wanted to go, a fight breaks out and Marcos is left bruised on the floor. The driver a man of strong moral values having found the couples kissing offensive in the eyes of the law brands Paula a slut and begins to give her the beating he believes her father should have. Incensed by this assault on his girlfriend Marcos attacks the man with a stone.

The following day the couple learn that the Taxi driver in fact died when Marcos hit him. Knowing that Marcos will be executed for his crimes, they plan to cover up what happened. But the burden weighs heavy on Paula's shoulders who insists on going to the police, in the hope that they will look favourably on Marco's case; Marco tries to justify the issue stating that "The police only listen to the rich", but Paula is having none of it. Realising that there is just no use in trying to reason with Paula, and that he certainly does not want to die Marco kills Paula to hide the truth. But it seems that Paula left ample clues as to her whereabouts, and Marco is forced to take further drastic measures in order to stay alive.

It's shocking to consider that when the movie made and set 1973 some of the things that we took for granted even then were so incredibly alien to the Spanish; and personally this is where I feel the movie has its real charm. Most marriages were organised, adultery was outlawed, and there is no thing as choice when it comes to dating. Paula and Marco's relationship was doomed from the offset because it was forbidden; especially considering that Paula's family were wealthy and comparatively speaking Marco was a peasant. Secondly the fact that kissing in public could really offend people is also something that really shocks you well after the event has happened, and for the films duration. And I guess more shocking still is the fact that for the poor that causing death, even by accident is something that will ultimately end your own life. It's a time where body fragrances were new to a country (and universal by sex) and the country operated on yellow coupon status (except those that had money).

Cannibal Man makes intriguing viewing because it very much mixes a horror theme with an art-house look, not something so alien now granted, but considering it came from Spain, and at a time where this sort of movie itself was outlawed was an achievement. Horror movies alone were a struggle to get made in Spain, let alone Horror movies covering so many taboo subjects.  Sadly the film is also considered a horror movie which is a real tragedy as already a chunk of its potential audience was lost, thriller it may be but I'd never say it enters the realms of being horror.

In amongst its more serious topics Cannibal Man has some great humour in it, whether it's deliberate or not I could not say. Marco finds himself in a situation where he is forced to kill repeatedly, and because of the location of his home all eyes are upon it meaning that as the bodies pile up, the smell increases and Marco is forced to try and hide the smell as well as conceal his secret. It's comical as all the characters that surround Marco's life start to turn up looking for evidence and he is forced to kill each one.  Each death committed a little differently, and as each body becomes available he tries to position the bodies carefully in and around his bed.

All obvious factors taken as a given then you have the slow reveal of a much different story. Nestor a man with money who lives in the apartment that overlooks Marco's shack develops an obsession with Marco. And although the situation is never clearly addressed its obvious that Nestor is in love with Marco; and as time progresses it seems that this might not be a one sided love. Marco experiences a true freedom when with Nestor, and it's obvious that this is the only time that Marco is at rest or happy; whether it be out drinking, or playing in a swimming pool. On some levels you could say thatCannibal Man was as much a homosexual loves story as you could say it was a horror tale. This again is a stabbing in the side of then Dictator General Franco who ruled Spain with an iron fist (luckily he was on his way out at the time that Cannibal Man was released) . As a result what you see is an accurate document of what life was like in Spain prior to Franco's deposition as its leader. As a result the movie even as a historical document is certainly worth a viewing.  There is one lengthy scene which displays Spain's horrific nature during this time regarding class, money, and identity cards and this is something that really hits home more than any other topic the movie addresses.

Cannibal Man is compulsive and not repulsive viewing, while at times it goes over the top in the amount of bodies Marco is forced to dispose of; it remains a solid piece of film-making. It seems aimed at an overseas audience, focusing on all the issues that we might find alien, and showing the poverty in respect of possessions that even the most wealthy of Spains inhabitants had. It's quite thrilling, has a splash of comedy, and but most importantly keeps you watching on the edge of your seat for the movies duration. The final resolve of Marco in order to dispose of the bodies leads you to the movies title, but maybe not quite on the level you expect.

Cannibal Man is not available in the UK at present due to a ban over 20 years old that outlawed the word Cannibal in our viewing. Sadly not being one of the big Cannibal films, its also the movie that is forgotten about as the different companies shift the bans and  re-release the movies that The Daily Mail and our Government thought would turn us into murderers.  

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