Filmmaker made cult classic 'Mondo Cane'

Filmmaker Gualtiero Jacopetti — the man behind documentary “Mondo Cane” and its sequels, cult classics that collected examples of the creepy and bizarre from around the world — died Wednesday in Rome. He was 91.

“Mondo cane” (the title means “A Dog’s World”) premiered at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival, where it drew accolades and was nominated for the Palme d’Or. Jacopetti called the film, which he made with his collaborators Franco Prosperi and Paolo Cavara, a “shockumentary.” Such exploitation documentaries (e.g., the “Faces of Death” series) are also now known as mondo films.

Jacopetti used both the narration and the juxtaposition of the often-disturbing material — what he called “shock cuts” — to achieve an ironic effect. In one scene, for example, a mother in New Guinea, bereaved over the death of her child, was shown nursing a piglet. The next scene depicted the slaughter of pigs in the same region for a carnal feast.

The “Mondo Cane” theme song, “More,” by Riz Ortolani and Nino Oliviero, was nominated for an Oscar.

The film divided critics in the U.S. but was a big hit worldwide, paving the way for sequels including “Mondo Cane 2.” He also made “Women of the World,” which was accused of exploiting women, and “Africa Addio,” for which he was accused of collusion with killers to obtain the violent footage in the film.

An enormous number of imitators followed in Jacopetti’s footsteps, many of the them using the word “Mondo” in the titles of their pics. Russ Meyer made “Mondo Topless,” and John Water came out with “Mondo Trasho.” There was also “Mondo Bizarro” and “Mondo Weirdo.” Some of the films with “Mondo” in the title were not even documentaries and were simply taking advantage of the popularity of Jacopetti’s work. Like some of his imitators, Jacopetti was accused by some of staging the bizarre events depicted in his films.

In 1971 he turned his attention to antebellum South — he and Prosperi made “Goodbye, Uncle Tom,” about slavery in the U.S. The framing device: Jacopetti and Prosperi appeared onscreen as filmmakers who travel back in time.

Jacopetti was born in Barga, Italy. He was a magazine editor and a maker of newsreels before he turned to feature films.

His last film, which he wrote but did not direct, was “Fangio — Una vita a 300 all’ora,” a documentary about the Formula One racecar driver Juan Manuel Fangio helmed by Hugh Hudson.

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