Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Blimey, that's...Brave

Cannibal Holocaust with an 18 cert? I've lived too long!!

Yes, Shameless films apparently spent another 3 months in the BBFC's waiting room, to get Cannibal Holocaust certificated, and only 15 seconds of cuts (replaced by reaction shots of the same length, to avoid jumps in the soundtrack)! I'm surprised that the BBFC had to cut as little as that, given the legal restrictions under which they operate regarding animal cruelty; since I'm the first person to verbally pistol-whip Our Esteemed Classificators for their often daft responses, I have to doff my bonnet to the serious consideration they gave to the film and that they describe here (Well, me with a nice thing to say about a BBFC decision? Maybe these are the End Times after all...).

Now; Cannibal Holcaust, see, was a harder watch than films like Salo, for me; because cheek-to-cheek with the faked rape, staged arson and body-painted extras chewing on ribs, CH has real, unfeigned animal cruelty and death of at least...four (possibly five) live animals, including a pig (kicked, then shot), a river turtle (de-shelled while still alive and piteously flapping its flippers), a spider (business end of a machete, may have been subbed for a rubber spider), a monkey, and some sort of muskrat(?) thing. Perhaps it's hypocrisy, since I'm comfortable with animals dying to fill my belly (yes, it was a delicious beef madras that I had the other day, thanks), but not for my amusement (not planning on a trip to a bullfight any time...ever). We all make our...accommodations with our consciences, and this one's mine. There is a non-animal-cruelty version available; included with the R1 boxset that I have; a sensitive viewer may find that less troublesome; rest assured that the real (pre-existing) atrocity footage of an African civil war has been retained in that version.

On an unrelated point...I'm not entirely convinced that the South American locals playing the anthrophages were ever, you know, PAID for all their running around, rolling in mud, and being pretend-raped and pretend-killed. I start to visualise a 'The Last Movie' situation, and shift awkwardly in my seat; curse you, white liberal post-colonial guilt!

CH is...actually, probably indefensible for a moral human being in the 21st century and just to shrug and say 'oh, them crazy Italians'...yeah, probably not good enough. What it is, among other things, is an indictment of an even worse trend in the Italian cinema of the time; Mondo films which really did traffic in 'real' war crimes footage [including a more-than suspicion that some of it may have been, um...'arranged' for the cameras] or at least, that executions, army-charges, etc were scheduled for the film-makers' convenience. Consequently, there's very little that the filmmaker characters in CH do, that Jacopetti and Prosperi (the directors of Mondo Cane and the fathers of the entire 'Mondo' movement) weren't at least accused of,up to and including real animal death, setting up atrocities, exploitation of native populations, and at the very least culpability in rape and killing. For more background on those charming fellows Signore Jacopetti and Prosperi, and the whole Mondo subgenre, I'd highly recommend Kerekes' and Slater's Killing For Culture, albeit vastly overdue for an updated reprint; I'd particularly like to see them cover the Blair Witch Project; the most successful 'Snuff' film ever made.

So, Cannibal Holocaust; problematic, all right, in more ways than you'd think were possible; still, I'm glad that it's around, and available in as intact a form as possible. Your correspondent urges you, in this as in all situations, to see it for yourself (punt some cash into Shameless Films' pockets, since I'm sure there are still more Sirpa Lane films awaiting their DVDebut), use your own eyes, and make up your own mind.

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