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Blood of the Beasts

Film Review by Dean Duncan Aug 29, 2014

What’s the point here? Director Georges Franju seems completely conscious of how ambiguous this is, and in fact that ambiguity is a real tribute to his skill and intelligence. Lots of things are operating here, simultaneously. We get some classic documentary content, where exposition and setting are sufficient, where everyday things are presented unapologetically, because everyday things are both important and interesting. Labour is also a central part of the film. This is a process, or a series of processes, as well as a sort-of appreciation of the working people who enact them.

The Blood of Beasts is also quite astonishingly violent, and the matter-of-factness of that violence makes it all the more astonishing. Are war-time losses lurking symbolically at the margins? At the very least, 1949 apart, Franju’s film has to give the meat-eater pause. The viewer, even at this chronological remove, feels inclined to push for more humane conditions, or at very least to pay these guys more. It crosses the mind that all of these things are presented with an almost Flaubertian objectivity. This would mean that Franju refuses to condemn or prescribe, but that moral recognition and subsequent action are necessary, and obvious.

But then we ask: whence this unpleasant sensation? Consider the lyricism, with the young lovers embracing within sight and smell of the abbatoir. Romance and hope springing eternal? Red herring? Sarcasm? Might this finally be more Henri-Georges Clouzot than Gustave Flaubert? Here is a sharp eye, an admirable singleness of purpose, and, just maybe, a thorough and rotten misanthropy.