Monday, June 23, 2008

CANNIBALS, Franco Style

In the documentary, "Franco Holocaust"--found on the Blue Underground DVD release of CANNIBALS--Jess Franco expresses his disdain for the Cannibal film genre that had become prominent during the 1980s, spawning such films as CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST CANNIBAL FEROX, and his own 1980 film, CANNIBALS (otherwise known as MONDO CANNIBALE). Among other complaints, Franco argues that the films created by Ruggero Deodato and others had unforgivable pretensions of realism, presenting themselves as documentaries and thereby blurring the distinctions between the real and fabricated. That's a delightful observation since Franco's film aspires to nothing more than pulpy horror adventure, though Franco's direction seems to lack his usual passion. Most notably, he does little to disguise the Caucasian identity of his "natives," some of whom even have well-groomed mustaches with little more than circus paint to identify them as "other."

While some might cite this as evidence of Franco's sometimes lax habits as a film-maker, I prefer to think that Franco is intentionally undermining the conventions of this genre, which often gives lip service to the notion that the "real cannibal" is us (to paraphrase the closing statement of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST.) Despite this expressed sentiment, the films by Deodato, Lenzi, and others tend to conflate the racialized "Other" as the savage cannibal, allowing the shifting lines between "us" and "them" to fall into a comfortable place at the end. While avoiding any direct political commentary, Franco's bizarre characterizations manage to make his film seem all the more subversive. While far from "good" or a Franco film I'd really recommend, it still has this going for it.

Oh, and it has Sabrina Siani looking like something that stepped out an old Margaret Brundage Weird Tales cover. That's worth something, no?

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