DIRECTORS: Alfred & Alfredo Castiglioni
IN BRIEF: Shockumentary explores strange and sometimes disturbing tribal customs.
IHMO: MONDO MAGIC is both less grindhouse and more arthouse than you might suspect, if that hair must be split. This isn’t the gratuitous gross-out of some schlockumentaries but it is a better movie than you might believe. It really doesn’t have the tenor of (pardon the word, you know I hate it) an “exploitation” picture; it plays it really straight. But, “exploitation” has come in the guise of informative films before – consider the old sexual hygiene pictures. Either way, this is a smartly done production. Most of the running time – revolves around the general lifestyles of various “primitive” tribes – how about pre-industrial – whose culture is naturally far enough removed from ours that much will be surprising and some things out-and-out shocking. Of course, the film pays a little extra attention to rituals, spiritual beliefs and medicinal magic, etc., using these things as a thread through the meat of the material. It’s not all pertaining to that; some activities are merely involved with the tribes’ day by day life. This includes some livestock practices that most Westerners will find a bit disturbing, for some, outright upsetting. But it’s far from Ruggero Deodato’s explicit animal carnage in Cannibal Holocaust; no condemnation here, simply the assertion that MONDO MAGIC’s animal footage (a) isn’t mutilation, except a few small-scale doings that are nevertheless connected with the tribes’ basic sustenance from livestock, and by mutilation I mean extensive physical violation of an animal for reasons beyond just sustenance, and (b) the tones of the two films are entirely different. But the comparison can’t help pop to mind what with “primitives” mucking about, doing their thing, ethereal music playing in the soundtrack at times and a few bloody bits involving animals. All but the most unreasonable people will see the lack of intended cruelty involved with the scenes of which I speak. It might seem cruel but I speak of cruelty of intent. Actually, the lasting impression in MONDO MAGIC is that the humans suffer worse than the humans. Shaman’s cures to various things certainly go against the Western Hippocratic grain. Christianity, believe it or not, makes an appearance, albeit in a non-U.S. form that takes Paul’s admonishment to mortify the flesh a little too damn serious for comfort. Sexual religious ritual is another of the surprises ready to spring upon the viewer. And I have a question for Dads: Ever think of having your daughter’s virginity confirmed … or denied?
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