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Monday, November 14, 2011

The Cannibal Man (1971) - Murderer Psycho

The Cannibal Man (1971) - La semana del asesino (original title) More like "The Week of the Assassin?". I am going with the date on the film itself instead of IMDB on the year it was made. This is an odd film about a poor Italian man Marcos (Vincente Parra) who accidentally kills someone and because of his belief about how society would treat him decides not to go to the police. The effect of this decision starts him down a road he can never come back from. Commenting on Italy's social classes and their interaction the film is by no means heavy handed in this. Marcos, the main character lives in one of the last small houses in his neighborhood which is being gentrified with many high rise apartments occupied by the wealthy. In the opening scene he is sitting is the heat of the house, shirtless just listening to the radio. It is all he has and we find out later it is not even his house but that of his brother Esteban (Charly Bravo) who is off on business. The Soresport can empathize with Marko, there were times in my life where I was so poor that I was the one sitting in the house, nothing but a radio, no fans or air conditioning. It is tough being poor and Marcos is stuck with his life. He is a low level worker at a slaughterhouse that supplies meat for the Flory soup company. His life is small he goes to the local diner and eats and flirts with the waitress. He has a girlfriend whose father is not happy she is dating such a low man. So much so that she needs to sneak out to see him. He works and he sits in his brother's little house.
One of the ways the film comments about the class differences is by having a wealthy character who befriends Marcos, in this case Nester (Eusebio Poncela). He lives in the large apartment building near Marcos and it seems he may be gay. Marcos has these roof windows in his house and Nester peers down with binoculars at the shirtless man. There is this awkward tension as the two get to know each other on one hand Marcos gets a taste of the wealthy man's life but on the other hand he is pretty sure he can not have the relationship go where Nester would like it to. In a scene that solidifies that Marcos is correct in how the lower classes are treated by the authorities he and Nester are out for drinks one hot night. The police come up and start harassing them to show identification. Marcos shows his but Nester had left his at home. The police really starts lecturing about always having your papers on you but as soon as he learns that Nester lives in the high rise he apologizes and leaves. This is important to understand Marcos and his reactions to what is happening in the plot.
He goes out on a date with his girlfriend Paula (Emma Cohen) and while they are making out in the back of a taxi, they are confronted by the driver (Goyo Lebrero) who does not like that behavior. They are kicked out but the driver is very aggressive and attacks them for the partial fair he is owed. In the struggle Marcos strikes the man in the head with a stone. It is completely the taxi drivers fault this fight happened but unfortunately for Marcos he hit the man too hard and killed him. He could probably argue self defense. Since it is his belief he will not be treated fairly he wants to keep quiet and let the case go unsolved. Paula though can not live with that outcome and insists he go to the police or she will. The guilt would be too much for her. In the argument Marco makes one of many bad decisions as instead of letting her leave he chokes her out and hides the body under his brother's bed.
From there things sort of spiral out of control, his brother returns early and the body is still in the bedroom. Again an argument about going to the police leads to a similar conclusion. Then the next day when Esteban's fiancee, Carmen (Lola Herrera) comes by she discovers the two bodies and there is only one thing for the increasingly unstable Marcos to do. This is the problem, there are people connected to people, you kill one and anyone that knew they went to your house will come looking. It is a dilemma Marcos can not avoid in this film and as the bodies stack up the question also becomes how will he get rid of them. He has no car and the area around his house is so open and exposed that there would be no way to move the bodies. He does have the advantage of where he works though.
It seems that he can come up with a solution and as he slowly executes it day after day performing the gruesome task he must it seems that he may actually get away with the multiple murders. His respites with Nester take the edge off a bit but there is a real and evident mental toll. Marcos has to deal with the smell as his solution can only happen a bit at a time, but it could work. Perfumes and air fresheners can be purchased, things could be cleaned up. Then of course it can't there is the smell and the pesky Senor Ambrosio (Fernando Sanchez Polack) Carmen's father who arrives looking for his daughter. So Marcos go back to the only solution he knows and it is not the last time he will go this route.
It is a really sad story with the poor man trapped in his own limited decision making. His friend Nester tries to relieve the pressure with nice time shared between two men. It was so interesting to watch Marcos struggle with the knowledge that Nester would like a bit more than just friendship but at the same time not wanting to lose this piece of sanity in what has become a nightmare life. The Writer / Director of this film Eloy de la Iglesia shies away from pushing this angle of the film. He goes as far as having the men frolic in the water of Nester's health club but really never pushes past that into making Marcos decide to take the next step or throw away something he enjoys. I think this is a real flaw in the film, it is like it just gives up on creating conflict and in its place goes back to the bodies in the bedroom as the driving force. Certainly they are the main plot line but there was such an opportunity there that was missed.
In the end the film really pulled its punches and the ending was less than satisfying. It is resolved but not how we in modern movie making would expect. Instead the outcome is like the writer gave up on the story and just decided it needed to end. So disappointing for a film with something to say.
Rating (5.2) 5.0 and up are recommended Rent it but don't go out of your way.

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