Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Meat: The Dutch Cinematic Provocation Resurfaces

It is time to play “know your cuts of meat” or maybe rather “know your antisocial fetishes.” Either way, it will take place in a butcher’s shop. That usually means trouble in the movies and it is especially so in this Dutch establishment. Sex and death are both going on in the backroom during Victor Niuwenhuijs & Maaartje Seyferth’s Meat (not safe for anywhere trailer here), which releases today on VOD from Artsploitation.

Way back in 2010, Meat opened in Holland and scandalized the genre festival circuit. Then it effectively disappeared for North American audiences, because it really required an aesthetically fearless distributor like Artsploitation to get behind—so here it is now. We do not believe in trigger warnings, but pretty much all of them apply to Meat.

Roxy has a delightful part-time job in the boucherie getting sexually harassed by the unnamed butcher (at least he doesn’t look so bad compared to her abusive Turkish boyfriend, who has been stringing her along). The shop is relatively peaceful when the Butcher is making love to his prostitute wife in the meat locker, but the mood turns sour when she opens cavorts with her pimp. Despite his appalling behavior, Roxy is still down with Team Butcher, so she is quite distressed when the old man is apparently murdered.

To make matters even more surreal, the case is assigned to the soon to retire Inspector Mann, who might be the worst cop in Holland and also happens to be the spitting image of the Butcher. Naturally Roxie becomes the prime suspect, but Mann, Niuwenhuijs, and Seyferth are about as forthcoming on details of the crime as an Alain Robbe-Grillet novel.

By mixing the sordid exploitation of the most shocking grindhouse movies with the postmodern intellectualism of art house cinema at its most severe, Meat has something to alienate just about everyone. Yet, it has to be respected as a fearless work of auteurist cinema. Deliberately setting out to unnerve and discomfort viewers, Niuwenhuijs & Seyferth succeed smashingly. While The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover obviously provided inspiration, Meat’s excesses are all its own.

Regardless, Titus Muizelaar gives a remarkable dual performance as the Inspector and the Butcher, until they eventually blend back together—or whatever. Nellie Benner’s portrayal of Roxy is also jaw-droppingly fearless. We are talking about some truly raw and exposed work here from all parties.

Clearly, Niuwenhuijs & Seyferth are engaging with all connotations of the word meat, especially the carnal and carnivorous. It is does not always work. Frankly, Roxie’s compulsion to film all the outrages with her hand held camera was already a shopworn indie convention in the 1990s. Ultimately it just becomes too obscure for its own good down the stretch, but for the most part, there is merit and method to its madness. Recommended for the hardiest of cineastes who just want to see it for themselves, Meat is now available on VOD platforms, including Vimeo, from Artsploitation.