Caniba (2017)

December 11th, 2017
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Verena Paravel, Julien Castaing-Taylor | 97′ | Doc | France

Documentarians Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor (Leviathan) are back with another impressionist take on human behaviour, which although highly imaginative often raises more questions than it answers.

Their last venture somniliques (2017) focused on sleepwalking, and now their camera explores the macabre phenomenon of cannibalism through the life of Issei Sagawa, who was convicted of eating his human victims and is now living a semi-reclusive life and hoping for remission.

The filmmakers actually manage to gain access to Sagawa for a series of palpably disturbing but brief interviews conducted in his home in Japan. It transpires he was deported from France in 1981 after serving a meagre two-year sentence for the murder of Dutch student Renée Hartevelt and since suffering a life-limiting stroke several years ago, he is confined to his home under the sole care of his sibling and rival – the two are clearly in conflict. And whilst the fate of his victims was gruesome, the ageing and infirm Sagawa is not exactly living the life of Laurie since being released from his jail term (which could have been more draconian in his native Japan). As with many killers, his crimes have attracted a certain notoriety and he continues to explore his fetish through  creative expression in manga comics and porno film work. He also admits that his cannibalism cuts both ways: he expresses a desire to be eaten, and harmed.Although cannibalism is an extreme form of human behaviour, it is not as unusual or as eccentric as many assume. Some anthropologists even liken it to highly passionate sexual or spiritual desire: a wish to consume or even become one with another being, such as when Christians take in “the body of Christ” during the Communion service. So the expression: “you look good enough to eat”, has both a literal and a metaphorical significance.

Visually this is a sensual piece of filmmaking – in the most disturbing way possible. Intimate close-ups of bloated faces and distorted limbs float across the screen and the score is suggestive of sucking and licking, while explicit sexual activity actually takes place between – what we assume to be Sagawa – and an unnamed woman. The film is also enlivened by home movie footage of Sagawa and his family. The filmmakers keep their distance from the subject matter, never attempting to probe or offer any explanation. Their experimental approach is purely observational and it works. MT

NOW ON RELEASE AT ARTHOUSE CINEMAS | UK Premiere Saturday 16 December  Bertha Dochouse 


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