Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cannibal: The Tailor of Granada

He has the fastidiousness of Hannibal Lecter and the social grace of Norman Bates. He has his faults, but his work is extremely dignified. He is Granada’s finest tailor. He also cooks—people. However, the threadsmith may or may not try to turn over a new leaf in Manuel Martín Cuenca’s Cannibal (trailer here), available on DVD today from Film Movement.

Outside of the kitchen, Carlos definitely seems to have issues with women. We never really learn how he reached this point, but the comments of his cranky old seamstress suggest he was always a little off. We immediately see Carlos stalking his prey and the almost sensual manner in which he goes about the butchery. He seems comfortable with his predatory existence until two Romanian sisters throw him off his game. Alexandra is the player and Nina is the plugger. When the former moves into his apartment building, she first tries to use the resolutely unseduced tailor to help build a clientele for her massage services. Soon though, she is pulling him into a drama with her abusive boyfriend.

When Alexandra disappears under mysterious circumstances, the earnest Nina comes looking for her. Despite his better judgment, Carlos constantly offers her small bits of assistance. Clearly, he feels an attraction to her, but is it romantic or culinary?

Without question, this has to be the most restrained cannibal movie in the history of the exploitation subgenre. There is no gore and precious little blood, but it shows the savagery of human nature in no uncertain terms. Cuenca also revels in the city’s ancient architecture and prominent Catholic trappings, using them as an ironic counterpoint to Carlos’s unspeakably lurid deeds.

Cannibal will be a hard film for man viewers to swallow, because it definitely invites sympathy for the devil or at least prompts us to root for him to change his spots. There is a lot of ambiguity, but arguably heinous sin will be its own punishment. Indeed, Cuenca’s film is light-years removed from Cannibal Apocalypse. In point of fact, it is shockingly refined and sophisticated, featuring the truly elegant cinematography of Pau Esteve Birba. Throughout the film, you can just feel the weight of Andalusian history and smell the humid evening air.

Aside from a few stock figures here and there, Cannibal is essentially a three-character two-hander, with Olimpia Melinte playing both sisters. In each personas, she develops subtly hued, erotically charged chemistry with Antonio de la Torre’s Carlos, who really supplies the bloody guts and dark soul of the picture. Arguably, it is the best cinematic serial killer performance since Anthony Perkins made the terribly under-appreciated Psycho sequels in the 980s, but de la Torre did not have the benefit of Norman Bates’ somewhat sympathetic backstory.

Cannibal is a strangely accomplished and deliberate film that slowly builds into classical tragedy rather blood-splattered mayhem. Its audience will fall within a narrow band of the cineaste spectrum, being too refined for midnight movie fanatics and too transgressive for proper art-house patrons. Recommended accordingly for adventurous and demanding viewers, Cannibal is now available on DVD from Film Movement.