Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Less is Morts: "Des Morts (Of the Dead)" (1979)

This French documentary shuns the usually sleazy world of mondo docs like "Faces of Death" and tries to show how different parts of the world view death.

The major problem here is that time and time again, the three directors slip into shocking footage, and the unshocking footage is especially dull.

The film opens with an American preparing a body for embalming. We then switch to a very long segment in Thailand, as a family prepares to bury a dead relative. The grandmother lies in a hut for three days, decomposes, and is finally buried, but not before we witness the graphic killing of four oxen.

The film makers also visit Belgium, Nepal, and South Korea, juxtaposing scenes between what we would consider shocking treatment of the dead, and scenes of how Americans treat their terminally ill and dying.

The film makers rally around their point, saying "see, we are not all that different," and then proceeds to grind the viewers face into this boring little statement for an hour and forty five minutes.

After some interviews with some American muscular dystrophy patients, who talk about how they want to be buried or cremated, the film makers unwisely show a Filipino revolutionary executed by a former friend, before being dumped into a shallow grave.

"Death" is kind of a big topic to trim into a little documentary. There is no narrator or central idea, save the "we aren't so different" rigamarole, so scenes drag on forever in between the carnage.

If you like those shockumentaries like "Faces of Death," God have mercy on your soul and I feel sorry for you. But not half as sorry as I am for renting this mess. I do not recommend the deadening dull "Des Morts." (*) out of five stars.