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NYFF 2010. Jorge Michel Grau's "We Are What We Are"

"Cannibalism may be the nominal calling card of We Are What We Are," writes Nick Schager in the Voice, "but ritualistic gruesomeness is merely a means for political commentary in Jorge Michel Grau's auspicious debut. 'My first intention was to make a film about familial disintegration,' says the writer/director. 'It begins as an art-house drama, and then switches at the end to horror.' His assured allegorical tale of man-eat-man monstrousness focuses on a destitute Mexico City family who, after their patriarch's death, strive to carry on their fanatical 'rite' of abducting and consuming those even lower down the societal food chain."

For Eight Rooks, who caught the film at Fright Fest last month for Twitch, "We Are What We Are is a film that tries to humanise seemingly ordinary people who do monstrous things, but it fails to do a good job of this for two main reasons; all of its subjects are neither likeable nor interesting with or without their monstrousness." But back when Twitch's Todd Brown saw it in Cannes, it was, at that time, "still my favorite film of the year.... [M]uch like Let the Right One In, what we have here is a film built on a horror premise — and this does, indeed, become quite horrific — but which is as much, if not more, a family drama and teen coming of age story." All in all, "a remarkable piece of work from a very talented young director. May this be just the first of many from Grau."

"Artists have used cannibalism as a metaphor for the ways a society exploits its less powerful members for centuries, in works ranging from 'A Modest Proposal' to How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman," writes Aaron Cutler in Slant. "In this case, you're being offered a commentary on how the Mexican middle class preys on both the poor and sexual minorities... The film's main problem isn't that it spins these standard horror-as-politics metaphors, though, but rather that it exploits real violence in order to advance them."

 



For Simon Abrams, writing for the New York Press, "We Are What We Are is as sophomoric and hatefully ugly as it gets."

Screens tonight and tomorrow.

Update, 10/9: From Twitch, the new UK trailer:

 

 

Update, 10/10: "Grau more often than not shies away from the most gruesome aspects of the family's cannibalism," writes Benjamin Mercer in Reverse Shot, "but often heightens the sound of ripped-open chest cavities and slack bodies hitting the ground to an almost laughable extreme. The black-comedy-of-police-ineptness subplot... [shows] the grossly unfair status quo in Mexico City, but it also jars tonally, working on a more farcical register than the rest of the film's subtly deliberate comedy. Perhaps this emotionally piecemeal approach is meant to emphasize Mexico City as a place divided up, factionalized, of discrete interests constantly at odds with each other. On the fringes of the unjust society at large is this particular patriarchal clan of cannibals, a unit aware of the evil of its acts but nonetheless willing to go to any length to preserve its ancient way of life; the police and many practitioners of the world's oldest profession soon come out in force against them, cutting their own destructive path through the city. But this film's seeming delight in tantalizing the audience with suggestions of the grotesque cheapens its broader points about isolated communities at odds."


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