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Jan/Feb/Mar 2002

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THIS ISSUE!:    Oscar Fever! The Lord of the Rings! Supercrap on the WB!
PLUS: Amelie destroys Western Civilization! And the Coming of the Coreys!
Mondo Magic *****


Civilization versus nature. Order versus chaos. Humanity versus savagery. This theme has been echoed time and time again in the annals of cinematic history. From the complex exploration of the barbarity in the human heart found in Apocalypse Now, to the in-depth examination of the metaphorical beast within of Happy Gilmore, this fascinating concept has arisen over and over in movie after movie, and now it is found once again in the shocking documentary Mondo Magic. Produced by the Caligariti brothers, who took time off from making exploitative Italian cannibal movies to make this exploitative Italian documentary, Mondo Magic explores the intrigues of primitive third world mysticism, contrasting it with the so-called "civilization" of the modern world. The brothers approach the subject fairly and objectively, taking the viewer around the world, spending time with various tribes and cultures, letting us get familiar with their respective religions, practices and the various other reasons why white people are apparently better than the rest of the world. While years of indoctrination by crudely made CBC anti-racism commercials caused me to balk at the film's ragingly xenophobic attitude, there is a certain ring of truth to the civilization versus nature argument they propose. Frankly, I couldn't care less about McDonalds' cultural colonialism erasing national identities, so long as it means I can eat Crispy McChicken sandwiches instead of roasted spiders cooked by a South American shaman clearly high on powdered frog skin. And although there are problems with the Canadian health care system, one of them is not that some witch doctor with a crazed look in his eye will try to cut off the upper phalange of your finger if you have a migraine. These are just a few of the images given to us in Mondo Magic, as we are guided through the wonders of the third world by a narrator who sounds suspiciously like a Hitler Youth den leader trying to make the best of his new life in Argentina. We start out with a naked African tribe, who spend their days smearing themselves with cow urine and sporting flat-top haircuts highly reminiscent of early 90's Fresh Prince episodes. From then, we move on to the Amazon Basin, where we meet a similarly nude group of tribesmen, who solve disputes over adultery by bashing each other over the heads with specially crafted sticks until their hair bleeds. Then, we're off to the Philippines, where psychic surgeons cure tumors by poking people in the eyes with a bloody sponge, and then back to Africa for a series of bizarre sex rituals that go on and on until the whole audience becomes firmly convinced that the entire Third World should be paved over and replaced with Blockbuster franchises. But why stop there? Even some of the first world kind of sucks, and could benefit from American cultural colonialism. Quite frankly, I've never been a big fan of the French, and as a film buff, I'd much prefer that the whole Nouvelle Vague movement be swapped with a few Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns, or even a good Blondie album. And I can do without the whole Scandinavian peninsula entirely, despite their proud tradition of ultra-right wing 'Viking' metal and that funny Swedish chef on The Muppet Show. And even as a Canadian, I'm the first to admit that the Great White North could do with a solid dose of US imperialism. Aside from the Olympics, I swear I'd slit my wrists if I ever caught myself watching the CBC. Honestly, do we as a nation really need another two hour special on Pierre Trudeau, or yet another TV show starring Jonathan Torrance of Street Sense? Degrassi and Degrassi fans make me physically ill, to the point where my only recourse is to make email death threats to Joey Jeremiah, and someone has to please stop the Royal Canadian Air Farce before it ruins any more lives. For crap's sake, people, that show is like what would happen if a bunch of boring people's parents got together to write some skits after Monday night bridge, and then got all the funny bits cut out by the CRTC and replaced with Can Con. And let's not even begin with the Canadian music scene. We represent ourselves to the international community with Celine Dion and the Barenaked Ladies, and then we wonder why we're the laughing stock of the United Nations? And then we have the gall to bitch about how the US doesn't like the Tragically Hip. Nobody likes the Tragically Hip. Everyone up here's just too simple on Molson at their concerts to notice that they only really have one song, and it's a pretty bad Rush cover. I didn't want to lump Canadians in with spider-eating savages, but Great Big Sea gives me no choice. Frankly, our culture sucks. So if you ever happen to see a condescending, alarmingly intolerant Italian documentary film crew trying to discover what utter barbarity could have spawned The Tom Green Show, just smile, nod, and go back to picking nits out of your hockey jersey.

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