Mondo in HD

June 2, 2011 | By

"More than the greatest love the world has known," says Riz.

Contrary to what the BBC may have envisioned, Human Planet [M] (2011) owes a great deal to Paolo Cavara and Gualtiero Jacopetti’s Mondo Cane (1962), the debut of what’s been branded the mondo genre.

A literal translation of the Italian film means ‘a dog’s world’ but it’s not the title that defined the genre, but the format: a travelogue documentary not unlike the early Cinerama films where exotic locales and odd cultural quirks were captured in widescreen glory. The emphasis was on authenticity, or at least conveying a sense of being party to things striking, exotic… and odd.

What makes a mondo film are globe-trotting locations, jumping from one group of odd human behaviour to another within a city or country, and making sure there’s a balance of the visually beautiful, bizarre, the shocking, and the serene. Contrasts for the sake of provocation. Cults or primitive tribes, and western values rational put upside-down. Man behaving like a wild creature, or learning from the wild world to gain a slight upper hand.

Why live in a world of extremes? Why get food that way? Why earn a living when it’s going to kill you faster than cancer?

Physical and cultural isolation, perhaps, and no need to adopt aspects of western lifestyles because it’s unsuitable or impractical. Not every village has electricity, and maybe living in a tree house is more satisfying without mortgage, utility and property tax payments.

Warner Home Video released Human Planet on DVD and Blu-ray, and fans ought to be happy it’s the U.K. version rather than the Discovery Channel edit (which is ostensibly the same series, retrofitted with a new narration track and music score because middle America only likes the Brit accent when it’s packaged inside Miramax Oscar bait).

Mastered at 1080i, the series looks grand, and Nitin Sawhney’s music is a welcome stylistic change from the more orchestral scores that have dominated prior series such as Planet Earth (2006) and Blue Planet (2001). There was nothing wrong with George Fenton’s music; we just needed a fresh sound for this atypical BBC production.

Because it’s mondo!

And yes, this blog – mondomark – espouses to the odd, eclectic elements native to the mondo genre as they flow from my brain (which is quite big). I just haven’t written an Oscar nominatable song yet to make the transition complete.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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