The end of January/beginning of February brings on the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which is one of my all-time favorite times of the year. This is the first time I haven’t been tied up on the weekends or out of the country in a few years, so I pulled the hubs along with me to spend Sunday seeing a couple of films. The first was a French comedy about a chef (starring Jean Reno–yes! Leon the Professional!). Then Mr. Hubs agreed to go with me to a Spanish film called Canibal which is a pretty big deal for him, as he is not a horror fan.
Well, it turns out Canibal isn’t really a horror movie, but a romantic tragedy directed by Manuel Martín Cuenca. The romance angle sounds like it could have been super hokey, but ended up being heartbreaking and sometimes spellbinding. I know–spellbinding even! The movie is very much geared toward the visual elements rather than weaving an elaborate story, this translates to long shots that drink in the scenery (you know, that art film thing). It looks great though, so I can’t really complain.
Example, the first shot opens on a gas station from some distance away. The station provides the only light in what is otherwise total blackness, and it almost has an Edward Hopper-like effect. You watch these two people filling up the car, having a cigarette, checking to see if anyone is inside and all the while you are waiting for another car to drive up or someone to ambush them. Instead, after those few minutes in silence, they get in the car and drive past your P.O.V. At which point, you hear the sound of an engine starting and you take off after them, realizing you’ve been in the killer’s P.O.V. the whole time. Shazam.
But don’t worry, it isn’t at all like the Maniac remake. That was really the only scene displayed from first person. The movie is third person, following the killer aka Carlos, played by Antonio de la Torre (who I recognized from Volver where he played a rapist. Let’s hope this isn’t type-casting.).
Carlos is a killer, but also a tailor in Granada, Spain. He is of the Hannibal Lecter school of cannibalism, where he appreciates precision, craftsmanship, and other fine things. The local Catholic church relies on him to restore a holy cloth that is going to be used during Easter. He listens to nothing but classical music while he crafts elegant mens’ suits. And unlike Hannibal, he doesn’t really seem to create culinary masterpieces with his selected human meats, or even really eat any fruits or vegetables at all. Just cutlets from his icebox full of human flesh and a glass of red wine.
Without the first sequence (where he ultimately traps the couple then kills and butchers the woman in his secluded mountain cabin), he would just be some lonely dude worthy of an Ace of Base song layover. In fact, he brought to mind a more collected version of Barry Egan in Punch Drunk Love. Then this Romanian girl with no obvious ties to anyone in town moves into his building, and then tries to put the moves on him. To the point that she shows up at his house in the middle of the night and tries to help herself to a beer from his refrigerator (“Why is there only meat in here?”).
It’s just too easy.
The major plot twist is when said Romanian girl’s sister comes looking for her. Confusing, uncomfortable, and ultimately tragic romance ensues.
If you are into quiet movies with slow, creeping horror and suggested gore, this is a great pic. Also if you love visual feasts featuring mountains and gorgeous, old architecture and textiles. And lots of indecipherable, yet piercing looks. This is film festival fodder, after all.
And–HA! My husband DUG it. Even if I can’t make him a horror fan, I might make an overall film fan of him yet.