O Clube dos Canibais
starring Ana Luiza Rios, Tavinho Teixeira, Zé Maria, Pedro Domingues
written and directed by Guto Parente
by Walter Chaw Guto Parente's The Cannibal Club is satire served grisly, sexy, slick, and unsubtle, an update in theme if not form of Paul Bartel's still-unsurpassed Eating Raoul--a fable of the class struggle eternal as the 1% literally feeds, as it is wont to do, on the other 99. The more things change, and all that; it's instructive to revisit Eating Raoul's opening narration about Hollywood, which seems to apply equally to every group of monkeys in pants: "Here sex hunger is reflected in every aspect of daily life...where random vice and amorality permeate every strata of society, and the barrier between food and sex has totally dissolved." For Parente, Bartel's murderous--and eventually cannibalistic--marrieds the Blands are Gilda and Otavio (Ana Luiza Rios and Tavinho Teixeira), a rich couple living on a sprawling estate in Fortaleza, Brazil, who go through an alarming number of low-income workers together. The young men are provided by an employment agency, seduced by the lady of the house, and at the moment of climax, murdered by Otavio (who's been jerking off in the wings), butchered, then eaten. Otavio is also a member of the titular club, where the hoi polloi of Brazilian corporate culture gathers to watch a graphic sex show that ends in the murder of the chained couple, who are then, likewise, served up in the Brazilian fashion: on skewers, shaved at the table. There's a hint of Peter Greenaway in that.
Cannibalism is a handy metaphor for a great many things: capitalism; the inherent madness required of partaking in Catholic Mass; the inequities in every business and romantic relationship. It speaks of behavioural sink in its sudden ubiquity and has its roots in every culture in stories of vengeance, cautionary tales, medicinal folklore, etc. The Cannibal Club is technically accomplished and direct in its rage. It's not a dog-eat-dog world, it's a few dogs eating all the other dogs: the kind of thing that tends to lead to heads in buckets and corpses hanging off bridges. The gore is relatively spare but beautifully executed and the performances, pitched as types and moods more than deep characterizations, are committed. There's a scene in the middle where Gilda and Otavio try to figure out what to do about their sudden status on the outs with their country-club buddies--a bedroom conversation that ends with a hug. In Otavio's hand throughout, however, is a handgun, and in the next room lies a corpse and someone we know to be Gilda's lover. In this one sequence, there's a lot of commentary on marriage--though it has nothing overtly to do with marriage--as well as how power and money are mutagens that turn people who might have been normal into people who just aren't anymore.