17 March 2009

Mondo Cane

Mondo Cane
Mondo Cane, directed by Gualtiero Jacopetti, features sensationalist documentary footage set to an inappropriately thunderous musical score. The clips compiled by Jacopetti present African and Asian societies as 'primitive' and 'savage'; the narrator even refers to a tribe from New Guinea as "barbarians".

Jacopetti uses juxtapositions for shock effect, such as cutting from a close-up of a model's cleavage to a tribeswoman suckling a pig, and a shot of pet dogs in America followed by footage of an Asian dog-meat restaurant. The film is exploitative, with its National Geographic-style nudity and animal-slaughter, and it's also misleading. For example, a beached turtle is seen flapping its flippers in obvious distress, though apparently, according to the narrator, the 'delusional' creature believes it is swimming in the ocean.

Clearly unable to source sufficient shocking material, Jacopetti pads the film out with long, dull sequences showing mildly intoxicated Germans and retired American tourists. The film was, however, an inexplicable success, and it instigated the long-lasting mondo documentary sub-genre (as discussed in the books Sweet & Savage and Killing For Culture).

Subsequent mondo films repeated Jacopetti's formula of exotic tribal rituals, incongruous music, exploitative nudity and violence, and condescending narration. Of course, each film was more explicit than the last, with the sub-genre eventually specialising in (both genuine and simulated) footage of human death. Jacopetti himself directed several further mondo films, including the graphic Africa Addio, the filming of which was critiqued in the horror film Cannibal Holocaust.