Mondo Cane is probably the one film on the list I’ve been dreading most since Salo, and that’s saying something. When I first went through the Book, I got the impression that Mondo Cane, or A Dog’s Life/World, would be a film shot literally from a dog’s point of view. It was only after a few more go-throughs, plus some independent research into the film, that its true nature became more apparent, and I knew right off that this would be a film I would have a hard time with. To put my actual viewing experience of Mondo Cane into one word, it would probably be “bwuh?” It’s not that the film was confusing, but rather it’s that I was confused as to what the film was supposed to be, because it wasn’t what it was largely advertised to be.
Mondo Cane fashions itself as a documentary, but it is nowhere near a normal documentary. It documents actions, people, and events all right, but there is no one subject that the film focuses on; it is instead a series of vignettes, only barely tethered together by comparable image motifs. What makes Mondo Cane so outright blatant is the theme of all these vignettes, the theme that the film constructs for itself; all the vignettes of the film are intended to deliberately shock the Western audience that this film aims at, which means many of the vignettes will contain cultural practices that may seem repugnant or immoral to most, and that would be the very point. Some vignettes and segments, for instance, frequently include various animal-related activities and traditions, including some involving the slaughtering and/or consumption of said animals, so animal lovers would be wise to skip this one. Really, that’s all there is to this film: a series of cultural practices, many involving animals, that people of a Western-cultured civilization would find abhorrent for various reasons. Well, aside from the animal cruelty, I didn’t really find a lot of the film as shocking as the directors of the film wanted it to be. I’m sure in the 1960s, when this was made and released, nearly all of this would likely be pretty shocking, but not in today’s desensitized and more culturally-accepting world.
That said, don’t go into this one thinking it’ll be an easy one to get through. The vignette style of the film made it a lot easier, but when all the film tries to do is shock you, and it ends up failing most of the time, then most of the film is just an exercise in killing time, and the parts that aren’t are only there to elicit a horrified or flabbergasted response from you, which doesn’t make for very pleasurable or entertaining viewing. It’s that that’s why I largely ended up on the rating I did; not only does the film provide me with nothing but appalling entertainment, it doesn’t even provide that for most of the running time. Instead, most of the time, I’m provided with material that doesn’t accomplish its goals, and thus becomes entirely empty entertainment, if it can even be called entertainment. If anything, I’m at least glad I was able to put this one behind me, with considerably less repugnance than I was expecting the film to give me. So there’s that.
Arbitrary Rating: 6/10