Film Review

Juliano Dornelles & Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Bacurau

Motion pictures don’t get much more uniquely eclectic and spellbinding than Bacurau, an ingenious genre tapestry of angry social commentary on capitalism and foreign relations, balls out gory splatter-fest genre flick in the midnite madness tradition, sun soaked modern western, anthropological oddity and overall mesmerizing curio sewn together from various different creative elements that are purposefully rough around the edges in their melding, which is one of the many charms to be found here. Somewhere in the back end of Brazil is Bacurau, a tiny village with a population that couldn’t be over one hundred, mourning the loss of its shamanistic matriarch as her daughter (Bárbara Colen) arrives back in town after long absence, just in time for a hypnotic funeral that sets the film’s first tonal resonance of many to come. The town has a host of interesting characters including protective ex-hitman Pacote (Thomas Aquino), charismatic feral warlord Lunga (drag artist Silvero Pereira is so great he deserves his own spinoff film) and fierce, no nonsense local physician Domingas, played by the great Sônia Braga. For the first act it feels like this will be a quaint, illuminating portrait of life in a part of the world we don’t normally get to see, a place where life is very different from what we’re used to in the west. The townsfolk struggle with their corrupt mayor who abuses his power by whoring out a young girl amongst them and withholding water supply under murky pretences. Then we shift gears into demented twilight zone mode and if there’s anything in your film to signal midway through that things are about to get very, very weird it’s the arrival of beloved cult film star Udo Kier as mysterious hunting guru Michael, who leads a troupe of despicable psychopaths into the region as the town suspiciously disappears off of Google maps, literal UFO’s observe from above and all hell breaks spectacularly loose. I don’t want to spoil too much because this is a film to savour, to unwrap and deliciously have the rug pulled out from under you at every turn of your expectations. It’s a brilliant social commentary on the dynamics of racism, corruption and the notion that foreign influence shows up to do basically anything it wants to perpetuate violence, corruption and hatred as long as there’s enough money involved. Kier hasn’t had a role this juicy in years, usually when you see his name in the billing as ‘special appearance’ you can bank on seeing him for two minutes in a throwaway cameo. Directors Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho know better and give him an extensive, scenery chewing monstrosity of a character that is his best work in a while. This film is hard to pin down and categorize, not necessarily because of its high ambitions but because of how audaciously and unapologetically it expects the viewer to keep up with them. There’s buckets of gruesome gore, deft social satire, genuine heartfelt emotion in areas and true artistic inspiration put into the finest of details in the way of life this village has, left like Easter eggs for the keenest of viewers to find and treasure. Bacurau is a truly special experience and one of my favourite films in a long time and the literal example of a ‘must-see’ for anyone who enjoys cinema, especially the wild and weird corners of the medium where gems like this reside.

-Nate Hill

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