Overview of Mondo Cane
Mondo Cane, a 1962 Italian documentary film, was co-directed by Gualtiero Jacopetti, Paolo Cavara, and Franco Prosperi. Narrated by Stefano Sibaldi, the film showcases a series of travelogue vignettes aimed at shocking or surprising Western audiences. While purporting to be a factual documentary, certain scenes in the film are either staged or altered for dramatic effect.
Commercial Success and Genre Impact
The film garnered international box-office acclaim and laid the foundation for a genre of exploitation documentaries, often incorporating the word “mondo” in their titles. Composers Riz Ortolani and Nino Oliviero provided the film’s score, which gained widespread recognition. The main theme song, “More,” won a Grammy Award, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song, and has been covered by various artists including Frank Sinatra and Roy Orbison.
Vignettes in the Film
The film covers a wide range of scenarios across different cultures and countries:
- In Castellaneta, Italy, a statue commemorating Rudolph Valentino becomes the subject of narration.
- On the beaches of Kiriwina, women pursue men in a cultural ritual.
- In Pasadena, California, Pet Haven Cemetery serves as a setting where pet owners grieve for their animals.
- In Strasbourg, geese are force-fed for foie gras production.
- Tokyo and New York luxury restaurants source their Wagyu beef from a specialized farm 200 miles from Tokyo.
- In Singapore, a snake store showcases how a snake is selected and butchered for consumption.
- In Rome, hundreds of colored chicks undergo a fatal drying process for Easter celebrations.
And many more, depicting cultural, ritualistic, and sometimes shocking practices around the world.
The film’s production involved multiple zones, with Cavara responsible for European and Euro-Asiatic areas. According to interviews with Cavara and supervisor Stanis Nievo, the film was developed concurrently with another project, “La donna nel Mondo,” between 1960 and 1962.
Reception and Accolades
The film was both a commercial and critical success. It won the David di Donatello for Best Production by the Accademia del Cinema Italiano. It also received a Palme d’Or nomination at the 15th Cannes Film Festival but lost to “O Pagador de Promessas.” Its theme song, “More,” earned an Academy Award nomination in 1963, losing to “Call Me Irresponsible.”
Legacy and Influence
Following the success of Mondo Cane, several sequels and similar films were produced, solidifying a distinct genre of mondo films. Titles in this genre include “Mondo Bizarro,” “Mondo Daytona,” and the “Faces of Death” series, among others. The film has been referenced and parodied in various forms of media, including Mike Patton’s 2010 album named in tribute to the original film.
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