Film Review: BACURAU (directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles)

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by Tony Frankel on April 1, 2020

in Film


If you don’t allow Bacurau to unfold itself on its own terms, you may find one of the most surprising and daring films of the year maddening and alienating. It isn’t always easy to decipher just what game is afoot in this genre-bending Brazilian film, but moviegoers are going to eat this up. Written and directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles, this audacious picture blends so many familiar movie-genre tropes that it technically shouldn’t work. While subtle at first, cineastes will begin to notice Sergio Leone-like close-ups — and perhaps a bit of Easy Rider — that escalates into a gleeful but horrific shoot ’em up in classic Western style. Instead of heroes coming to save the poor, we have mixed-race, cast-offs of Brazil’s dictatorial quagmire — these quirky denizens in a godforsaken town must fend for themselves against a fraudulent politician, an American cadre of Quentin Tarantino/Mad Max-esque glee killers, and a corrupt system which has been around since the beginning of colonialism.

The first half of the movie introduces us to the townspeople. A matriarch of this Podunk has just passed away, and when her granddaughter arrives for the funeral, weird happenings abound: an overturned truck sends empty coffins scattering; the phone service is cut off; shots are taken at a water-supply truck; and the town disappears from GPS maps. Would that I could say more about the second half, of which I may have said too much already. Not to worry. In 131 minutes, you can imagine the surprises in store. (Oh! The great Sonia Braga is on the scene like the old woman in The Stand.) Along the way, enjoy Mateus Alves and Tomaz Alves Souza’s psychedelic soundtrack, Pedro Sotero’s nifty 70s-style CinemaScope cinematography, and editor Eduardo Serrano’s attention-grabbing wipe transitions.

photos courtesy of Kino Lorber

Kino Lorber
Brazil | 131 Minutes | 2019
English and Portuguese with English subtitles
released March 6, 2020
support your local theaters by watching virtually due to COVID-19
for listings, visit Kino Lorber

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