The Movie Waffler New to MUBI - BACURAU | The Movie Waffler


bacurau review
A rural Brazilian community experiences a series of strange occurrences.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonça Filho

Starring: Barbara Colen, Thomas Aquino, Silvero Pereira, Sônia Braga, Udo Kier

bacurau bluray

The best thing about writing for The Movie Waffler is not the fame and adulation per se but is instead the mandate to watch and carefully consider films which you would perhaps never otherwise have actually chosen to spend time with. Or, indeed, films where you might not even have had the option to make such a decision, due to the abiding potential for some of these films to almost immediately fall from the radar on release, or perhaps, in some circumstances, not even get a distribution deal. Of course, this catholic approach means that we have to wade through a load of old dross, but the streaming river of crap will always, eventually, produce a nugget of gold. Case in point is Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho’s completely distinctive Bacurau, which is one of the best films you’ll see this year.

bacurau review

Situated in the "near future" but set within the natural atavism of a Brazilian sertão town, Bacurau begins with the poignant return of Teresa (Barbara Colen) to the ramshackle cidade. The death of Teresa’s grandmother is not only a big deal to her, but to the eponymous town as a whole. A rigorously matriarchal society, Bacurau is aware that the death of such a central personality is not good news, and thus, the stars out of alignment, strange things do slowly but surely ensue: the town can seemingly not be discerned anymore on GPS maps, there is no mobile coverage and the water truck which the town relies upon for irrigation rocks up riddled with bullet holes…

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Such weirdness is subtly woven into the vivid tapestry of Bacurau’s first act: a languorous depiction of life in this strange little town, the pace and detail of which has more in common with an ethnographic text, rather than the marketing’s makeshift genre titling of "weird western" (in the tradition of Under the Silver Lake and Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, Bacurau continues 2019’s trend of the ‘hang out’ film). For 40 minutes we are immersed in Bacurau, both the film and the fictional province; the torn pastels of the town’s colouring, the insistent chants of their ceremonies, and the open promise of sex sizzling at the edges of this happy society. Every frame convinces: you are there.

bacurau review

When the film’s combative second act begins, and we discover the source of these strange occurrences in the shape of a bunch of waspy Americans armed to their perfect white teeth, the jarring is palpable. The film achieves the kinetics of a home invasion flick, broadening the typical social power dynamics of that genre to incorporate an entire town, which is assaulted by this band of blood hungry tourists on some sort of illicit hunting trip (think the grossly privileged antagonists in Hostel 2). Dornelles and Filho’s dichotomising of their story is a jolt to the audience, a calculated narrative battering; a plot twist wherein the confusion is shared alike by the audience and the lovely people of Bacurau. With its pointed situations, the film does have the expressive charge of allegory (which my Wikipedia research informs me refers to Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right globaliser with unwelcome foreign trade aspirations), and it has to be said, the presentation of the (not so) great white hunters is a little on the nose. Dialogue includes "I came for the body count," and the wretched bunch also refer to each other as "cowboys," just in case we didn’t get the metaphor. That this gaggle of nobs are led by Udo Kier, a man who has never knowingly underacted, only adds to the caricature (btw, has anyone ever seen Kier and noted cat impersonator/political bandwagon jumper George Galloway in the same room?).

bacurau review

That’s a quibble though, because the absolute cinematic delight that Bacurau delivers is to be savoured. The romantic sweep of orchestral Western score segues to the sort of electro pulse that Nicolas Winding Refn favours, but unlike the work of that chancer, the genre manipulation of Bacurau is seamless and so much fun, not knowing and aloof. Badass moments include a naked couple (aged and comfortably shaped, with every fleshy inch of their wrinkled beauty bathed in the soft South American sun) blasting fuck out of the "cowboys," a warrior-like reliance on peyote when entering battle (Brazilian courage?) and the cacti that sprouts unhindered throughout the frame like thick Cthulan tentacles. A weird wonder, indeed.

Bacurau is on MUBI UK now.