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“Prankster” Filmmaker Rémy Belvaux, 1967-2006

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belvauxEven filmmakers can hit a sophomore slump, particularly if they manage to create something groundbreaking their first time out. After a director has spent all the nightmares accumulated over a lifetime in their first film, what possible hope can they have to capture that magic a second time, especially under tighter time constraints? One answer would be to, quoting James Brown, "hit it and quit."

Belgian director Rémy Belvaux passed away September 4 with only one feature film on his resume, but it was one worth remembering. A mockumentary, Man Bites Dog, is the story of a film crew slowly losing both their objectivity and morality as they follow a serial killer on his rounds.

While it may not be the first word on the bizarre relationship between journalism and violence, Man Bites Dog is certainly superior to the many similar films that followed in its wake, largely due to its sense of mischief. While Man Bites Dog is one of the darkest comedies ever filmed, it's still a comedy and a sly one at that.

The controversial winner of the International Critics’ Prize at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, Man Bites Dog saw Belvaux involved in nearly all aspects of the production including sharing in the writing, directing, producing and even acting. Yet after completing the film, Belvaux turned his back on feature film work and devoted his attention to other acts of misconduct, including assisting in the ambush of Bill Gates with a cream pie in 1999.

It's been speculated that Man Bites Dog was some elaborate prank and that Rémy Belvaux himself didn't take it entirely seriously. If that's the case, this is one joke that misfired with wonderful results, and one which the prankster wisely chose not to repeat again.

Condolences to Rémy Belvaux's family and friends. Rest in peace, M. Belvaux.

Found via My New Plaid Pants.

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