Mondo Cane (1963)

“It enters a hundred incredible worlds, where the camera has never gone before!”

Synopsis:
Bizarre cultural traits from around the world are showcased in this early “shockumentary” film.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary labels this “once notorious film” as “exploitative” and “repellent”, but I disagree. As noted in a DVD Verdict review, the “Mondo” films (this is the first of several) actually “paved the way for opening up society to the difference in cultures, customs, and traditions amongst the citizens of the world.” Through nifty mise en scene, the directors force western viewers to recognize the strangeness of their own society, and to acknowledge the cultural relativity of beauty, food, death, and other universal experiences. Indeed, when cultures from all parts of the world and all social strata are equally “exposed” — as they are in this film — it’s difficult to argue that the material is truly exploitative.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Expert mise en scene — as when obese Tabarese women show off their portly beauty, in juxtaposition with westerners attempting to jiggle their flab away in fitness machines

Must See?
Yes. While dated, it retains an important place in cinematic history.

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(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Mondo Cane (1963)”

  1. First viewing. I’m very, very hesitant to recommend this to ffs as a must. In fact, I probably wouldn’t do so.

    It may very well have a certain place in cinema history but, its somewhat-notorious rep notwithstanding, it’s a rather depressing film in many ways, and not a particularly edifying one. As for its “dated” nature, it will probably come as no surprise to those watching that we do indeed live in a bizarre world (we’ve seen this in countless films since, as well as the media in general) – and ffs don’t exactly need this film in order to be reminded of that.

    Essentially, the name of the game here is strangeness in practices of various cultures around the world – some much more peculiar than others. And the willy-nilly through-line is not always clear thematically (in one segment, we merely witness people behaving rather oddly when they’re drunk…so?; what makes that specific to a certain culture?).

    I’m trying to imagine who the audience was for this when it was released? Who went to see it? Who was unpleasantly surprised on date night?

    My guess is that the average viewer, if not repelled necessarily, will still find ‘MC’ unsettling. The film almost seems designed by a nihilist.

    Of course, on the other hand, if you’re an anthropologist, this is going to be the film for you!

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