From the Canine to the Cannibal: Pick of the Litter and Caniba

The puppies from Pick of the Litter [Image from Movie Paws]

Hello again, and thank you for stopping by. If you have been reading me since the inception of this film site almost six years ago you will notice that I rarely if ever touch on documentaries. I myself have often wondered why, if I do so enjoy viewing them myself, should I not be capable of producing a personal assessment of the story at hand. I think the reason simply might be because I tend to mainly keep my criticism firmly entrenched in the fictional rather than the observational. I seem to feel more at ease analyzing a character than a situation based on actual reality. And since most documentaries don’t come with all the visual bells and whistles that a regular movie brings (with some notable exceptions which I will have to revisit and review for my own peace of mind and (hopefully) your reading pleasure), I have decided to skip them altogether.

However, lately, I have had a change of mind. It has been half a decade since I began my trip down cinema both old and new. Documentaries, like shorts (a topic I also tended to avoid until follow link source url go to site middle school book reports reading journals source site see blood brothers gcse essays buy essay papers online temazepam buy in line housekeeping cover letter how to add an appendix to a research paper pain pills online no membership ladies viagra tablets follow url get link best definition essay editing sites usa short essay on science in everyday life essays on the american dream today case study business opportunities the resume writers thesis paper publish free choice essay topics essaywritingservice com reviews source link writing custom trace listener The Staggering Girl and Olla, recently reviewed, came around), are just as interesting if not more than many narratives and often bring their own levels of insight on a topic I might not have been aware of in the past,

Dana Nachman’s and Don Hardy, Jr.’s Pick of the Litter is a look into what makes a guide dog for the blind, It focuses on five puppies — all brothers and sisters and ridiculously cute — Patriot, Potomac, Phil, Poppet, and Primrose — which have been selected if you will to be trained to become guide dogs for the blind. However, the process seems a bit more arduous than you would think. The process in itself is an unbelievably rigorous one, from having the dogs be sent to family homes to ensure their social skills, to then bringing them to more experienced handlers who will then step in. If the dog in question is deemed “successful”, he or she passes to the next level and gets another handler who then, in turn, will train the animal on all aspects of walking alongside a blind person (or someone with limited vision).

I could understand this process, because it’s not as simple as proclaiming a dog fit to be handled by what will be their blind owner. That alone comes with a whole set of issues for obvious reasons of mobility throughout streets and parks. One slight mistake, or if the dog doesn’t fit the profile and consistently fails, and the dog goes back to its owner.

For the most, Pick of the Litter remains mostly on the side of cute over serious. It avoids any sentimentality, although, with five cute as heck labradors, each with their own personalities, some who bond rather closely with their first or second owners, it’s almost guaranteed that tears of emotion will be shed. On the other hand, there is a slight tone of reality show present, almost as if the dogs themselves were the unwilling participants of a competition they must win. Overall, Pick of the Litter remains rather refreshing and the end result for the ones that do make the cut is in itself, satisfying.

This is how close the camera is to Issei Sagawa’s repellent face. Consider yourself warned. [Image from New York Times.]

Now, Caniba, Véréna Paravel’s and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, is an entirely different kind of experience altogether. Satisfying I would not call it. Enlightening, even less.

If you have a strong stomach do check this movie out which is available on the Criterion Channel until the end of the month, but I’m sure it will pop up on Prime or iTunes where it will taunt the brave person to sit back, relax, and witness the life and horrors of one Issei Sagawa. As a matter of fact, when this movie turned up at the 2017 New York Film Festival, I was vaguely intrigued, but not interested, in such a topic matter because I was somewhat aware of Sagawa’s crime, and at the time, cannibalism wasn’t on the menu for me. [Now, I’ll again, gladly view a fictional account of cannibalism be it on the cheap or the auteur, but I don’t have to think that the character displayed on the screen is someone that I might actually encounter while on a stroll in New York City.]

So let’s get into the meat of this, shall we? Caniba brings us to a basically disabled Sagawa as he, shot up close and personal by the observing camera, eyes closed, lips barely parted, narrates his life in Japan, and how he came into such horrible desires. Sagawa goes into almost lurid detail into how while living in Paris in 1981 he came to lure Renée Hartevelt into his apartment for dinner, then shot her in the back of the head, and proceeded to do the unthinkable. That he was found insane and deported to Japan is almost an aberration of justice, but that Sagawa would later find fame not only as a manga artist who successfully published books based on his own lurid crime (to almost intolerably explicit levels) but as a porn actor, is hard to swallow in itself. As if accentuating the point, the directors sandwich a scene from a porn movie where Sagawa was an actor. Even as it is pixeled out, already you will have seen too much.

Sagawa’s manga, right before it gets bloody and depraved. [Grasshopper Film]

However, the directors also save a little time for Sagawa’s brother Jun. It seems both brothers are enamored of the concept of masochistic pain. Jun goes to great lengths to show us how he manages to torture himself, and it involves wrapping himself in barbed wire, biting his skin ravenously, and bloodletting.

During the entire run which is still too long for anyone to tolerate, all I kept saying to myself was, “I just hope I don’t see his teeth when he talks.” It’s never occurred to me that when people talk their teeth can occasionally be visible for fleeting moments. With the camera so close to Sagawa’s face, I just kept feeling a sense of rising dread. I just didn’t know how would I react if I actually saw the man’s eyes open… or his teeth. I was just glad it was over, and I could then take a shower and erase all traces of this unseeable picture for once and for all.

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