Caniba Screen 11 articles

Caniba

2017

Caniba Poster
  • Despite my admiration for the programming of Caniba, and my grudging respect for the film in certain limited respects, I find myself recoiling from the film and its subjects. There is the old saw, "nothing human is foreign to me." While Issey Sagawa may not be foreign -- his is, if anything, all too human -- this does not mean that anyone needs to know about his exploits.

  • Apparently eschewing moral judgment, the filmmakers pursue an in-your-face style that alternately mesmerizes and repels... While experts in sexual pathology may find this document rich in clinical data, viewers may be of mixed minds, with more than a few making their way toward the exits.

  • While the shallow depth-of-field close-ups will intellectually or somatically excite some viewers and repulse others, the rest of the filmmaking is comparatively conventional. The film may appeal to those interested in Sagawa, but Sagawa has already had much more than his 15-minutes of fame. Caniba does little to critique or contextualize that and ultimately feels self-serving in its contribution to the obsessive retelling of a lurid murder.

  • Never less than entrancing, the experience is nevertheless somewhat monotonous... and the ethics of this approach are quite uncomfortable... While the film’s risky, albeit tiresome and possibly dubious expressionist technique—applying an interpretation of inner psychology to the external texture of the film—is completely aligned with Issei Sagawa, I was myself left with the desire for a film that saw its subject in both men and took its form in a different direction.

  • It's no “Leviathan,” but there is something undeniably fascinating at work. There were dozens of walkouts during the meagerly attended press screening and a friend got sick at about the halfway point and had to leave to get some fresh air. It's definitely the sort of film you need a kind of coping mechanism to get through (Matt Prigge and I would occasionally whisper references back and forth about “Krippendorf's Tribe” just to keep the film's astonishing bleakness from fully settling in).

  • Castaing-Taylor and Paravel include clips from his porno performances, glimpses at the manga that recounts his crime in exacting detail, and some admittedly difficult-to-stomach self-harm footage not simply to scandalize (okay, maybe a little bit) but to remind us of the sheer weight of the history that their subject carries with him always. Caniba may be tough to take in, but you’d have a difficult time finding another film that contains this much fascinating and terrible humanity.

  • What is most remarkable about Caniba is the way that Castaing-Taylor and Paravel paint an intimate portrait of the Japanese man through careful composed close up shots, giving a unique atmosphere to what could’ve been a simple documentary.

  • Filmmakers Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel achieve their unnerving effect through the most elemental of techniques, all-encompassing close-ups and temps mort (as it were) that make us feel their subject’s presence and absence.

  • Codirectors Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor are best known for their 2012 nautical GoPro epic Leviathan, a thrilling film and an unrepeatable stunt, a fact they have happily understood. Here they’ve adapted an entirely new, pared-down, observant style to their sedentary subjects, filling the frame with the aging, mottled flesh of Sagawa, now suffering near-paralysis, and his caretaker brother, letting the focus drift in such a fashion as to make them seem almost incorporeal.

  • To say that these passages are disturbing is an understatement, and the film proceeds to set up a fascinating dialectic between the depiction of violence and its verbal counterpart. Paravel and Castaing-Taylor’s highly aestheticised approach lends the film an equally disquieting intimacy, as if seeking to find in Sagawa’s dead eyes a morsel of reason. (At one point Sagawa states that he himself would like to be eaten – punishment, one gathers, for a lifetime of psychological torment.)

  • The film forces us to confront the potential violence of human desire as a natural expression, as common and constant as the roar of a coming storm. It’s thus all the more ironic that a film this certifiably and studiedly verboten, its suggestiveness so inextricably bound up with its disingenuousness, is destined for eventual obscurity. And it’s a pity as well, given that Caniba invites us to contemplate not only our revulsion at its subject, but also our repulsion from itself.

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