film note: Bacurau

Bacurau
Directed by Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonça Filho
2h 11min, Brazil, 2019

Maybe I’ll give it another try but for now I’ll say, while worth seeing and impressive in many of its details, I did not take to the polarized way the two sides of the film’s battle are conceived and the way our politics and affinities are manipulated and taken advantage of rather than challenged. I do not like feeling hatred for characters, no matter how odious, and I’m suspicious when a film’s main project seems to be producing that inexorable and exigent hatred. Smells like Hollywood to me.

Why couldn’t this movie be about the people of Bacurau and the ways they formed a cohesive yet diverse community?

In some ways, these aspects of the film reminded me of Patrick Wang’s essential two-part A Bread Factory [affiliate link], which are much better films, mostly because the idea of the interactivity between art and life, as Rosenbaum puts its, while still aspirational and amorphous, is nonetheless committed to and explored instead of sidetracked by Hollywood cliches of revenge and retribution. Never good.

Why isn’t that what this movie is about rather than gun battles and gore? I don’t get it. As soon as someone started speaking English (and acting broadly and badly), I lost interest.

As a result of having to share screen time with the murderous, one-dimensional gringos, the Brazilian characterizations come across as quirky and fascinating but ultimately sketchy and shallow. That seems a disservice to me, especially considering the talent on display, notably Thomas Aquino as the sexy and soulful Pacote. (Edilson Silva, who played Márcio in Daytime Doorman, is present in a frustratingly tiny role.)

Wouldn’t a depiction of how rural Brazilians resist local and international exploitation by being themselves function as a rebuke to the colonial intrusions that this film is trying to expose, all without throwing severed heads into the road?

Written with StackEdit.

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