A cannibal film from Brazil sounds satirical enough all by itself, but director Guto Parente isn't aiming his hatchet at the European exploitation cinema of the eighties. Rather, in The Cannibal Club
, he pokes perverse fun at the super-rich of Brazil, who wallow in depravity at the cost of the many poor.
The rich literally eating the poor isn't in itself a particularly clever or unique metaphor, and has been used several times in the past. What sets Parente's film apart is his viewpoint: he follows a rich couple through their daily exploits. Octavio works and nitpicks, Gilda lounges at the pool all day. They're bored with their excesses, they squabble, they get too drunk at endless parties. And... they get a naughty thrill out of murdering and eating their servants one-by-one, constantly replacing them with more poor fodder.
They're also not alone in this. Like many workplaces have their inner circle of smokers, who make deals with each other during cigarette breaks, so do these people have their own secret society: the titular Cannibal Club, led by congressman Borges. The rules are strict, and secrecy a must, of course. So when it looks like Gilda may have accidentally angered Borges, the cannibal couple needs to be extra careful to avoid landing on the platter themselves.
A warning to the squeamish: the exploits of Octavio and Gilda are shown without restraint with regards to sex and violence. And while The Cannibal Club
isn't made for the gorehounds, gore is definitely there and it's as well done as the rest of the film. Meaning it's VERY well done. The film looks beautiful, and one home invasion sequence impresses with its sense of place, with tension being heightened because the audience knows exactly where everything and everyone is.
Guto Parente effortlessly switches from social comedy to tense thriller and back when necessary, and while The Cannibal Club
has its moments of Grand Guignol horror, they never become its centrepieces. The real horror is in these people's attitudes. And a special note needs to be made here about Pedro Domingues, who plays the club's leader Borges with the chilling authority of a vampire king.
I had a lot of fun with The Cannibal Club
, and saw it at its World Premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, as part of their "Rotterdämmerung" programme. That programme, aimed at films that play with genre conventions, made its welcome re-entry to the festival this year, after having been absent since 2009. As long as there are films like these in it, may the Rotterdämmerung stay with the festival forever!
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