Posted by: Loren Coleman on September 4th, 2011
When I graduated from Decatur, Illinois’ MacArthur High School in 1965, ”More” was deemed our official Class of 1965 song. It is the theme song to the 1962 Italian film Mondo Cane (“A Dog’s World”). For those that don’t remember, Mondo Cane was one very bizarre film but the song was a lyrical love song.
The use of “Mondo Cane” and more specifically “Mondo” and “Mundo” to denote a collection of weird stories is behind the origins of the naming of Cryptomundo.
Now word has reached us that the director of that first significant movie in that genre has died.
Gualtiero Jacopetti, an Italian moviemaker who made an art form of documenting the bizarre, the ironic and the unclothed with the provocative film Mondo Cane, the sequels, and copycats it spawned, died of undisclosed causes Aug. 17, 2011, at his home in Rome, according to Italian media reports. He was 91.
Mondo Cane, which Jacopetti directed with Paolo Cavara and Franco Prosperi, was a worldwide sensation when it was released in 1962, and it has maintained a devoted following. Jacopetti liked to say he invented the “anti-documentary” or the “shockumentary” with Mondo Cane, which was a global financial success.
Jacopetti with the actress Monica Vitti in Rome, 1968.
Decades before YouTube became a repository for videos of toilet-trained cats and backyard stunts, Jacopetti traveled around the globe filming all that was weird. He compiled the material into a film that was called, in English, “a dog’s world.”
“Those with frail stomachs,” wrote a Washington Post reviewer, “are well advised to stay away.”
Few people could resist.
Critics resorted to bulleted laundry lists to convey the expanse of Jacopetti’s 105-minute montage of raw human absurdity: Americans engaging in histrionics at a pet cemetery as a poodle urinates on a gravestone; French women force-feeding geese to make foie gras, quickly contrasted with scenes of island women bingeing on tapioca to make themselves more heftily attractive; a woman in New Guinea nursing a piglet, followed by images of the wanton slaughter preceding a feast of pork.
Jacopetti went on to make a sequel, Mondo Cane 2 (1963), and, in between, Women of the World (1963), which looked at women with the same open scrutiny found in the Mondo films. Russ Meyer, a director known for his films featuring large-breasted women, made Mondo Topless in 1966. Three years later, the idiosyncratic director John Waters made the cult hit Mondo Trasho.
In the New York Times obituary for Jacopetti, writer Douglas Martin notes: “Americans even took the Italian word for world and made it an all-purpose adjective. Tony Thorne in his Bloomsbury Dictionary of Modern Slang said this was usually done by adding a ‘mock-Latin “o” ending, as in “mondo-sleazo” or “mondo-cheapo.” ‘ A book of pop-culture essays published in Canada in 1996 was called Mondo-Canuck.”
Gualtiero Jacopetti was born in Barga, Italy, on Sept. 4, 1919. According to obituaries published in Italy, he helped Allied troops when they invaded the country in World War II. He was a magazine editor and helped start the Italian magazine L’Espresso, and made newsreels before turning to longer narrative cinema.
Articles in Italy said Jacopetti wanted to be buried next to the English actress Belinda Lee, a former girlfriend. Her ashes are kept at Campo Cestio Cemetery (Cimitero acattolico) in Rome, Italy. She died in a car accident in 1961 near San Bernardino, California, when they were traveling together from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. Jacopetti was injured in the crash.
See more here, earlier from Boing Boing.