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  Bacurau Community Spirit
Year: 2019
Director: Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonça Filho
Stars: Bárbara Colen, Thomas Aquino, Silvero Pereira, Thardelly Lima, Rubens Santos, Wilson Rabelo, Carlos Francisco, Luciana Souza, Karine Teles, Antonio Saboia, Sonia Braga, Udo Kier, Jonny Mars, Alli Willow, James Turpin, Julia Marie Peterson, Brian Townes
Genre: Drama, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Teresa (Bárbara Colen) is returning home to her village of Bacarau, having taken a trip with the water tanker driver, their homes needing the supply since they have been cut off by the nearby authorities. As the tanker drives along the road with her dozing in the passenger seat, she is woken by the sound of coffins strewn across the road being crushed under the vehicle's wheels, and soon they pass the truck that delivers those which has run over a motorcyclist who lies dead in the road. After a stop off at the dam, where they are fired at with a warning shot by the cowboys who are now in charge, Teresa surmises the situation is not good, and also has to return for her grandmother's funeral...

The Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho proved far from predictable as he moved from his political dramas to what could best be described as a science fiction Western that happened to take place in rural Brazil. Not that it was some effects-packed action extravaganza, for he and his co-director Juliano Dornelles kept the political stance of Fliho's previous efforts, they just wrapped them up in an oddly leisurely paced suspense piece where you were uncertain if the villagers of the titular hamlet were going to survive their ordeal intact. Although it began with Teresa as apparently the focal character, it soon branched off into different folks, both heroes and villains, around the area.

Those politics were going to mean most to Brazilians, and not always in a good way, as the film became a talking point in that country as Filho's previous effort had done, attacked for its leftist stance by the right who had won the recent elections as basically the complaints of sore losers, and defended by those on the left as a valid confrontation of how they believed Brazil had been corrupted by a fascist movement who used foreign money to exploit the poor and disadvantaged in the current climate. Quite a lot to take in then, and if you were unaware of the controversies in that region of the world, then you may be forgiven for watching this and thinking, well, I'm only getting half the story.

Not everyone wants to do homework before sitting down with a movie, and you could perceive this turning off a lot of potential foreign audiences, but it was popular domestically, which after all was probably more important, no matter that Filho held press conferences and interviews to publicise his efforts and make them more universal as an experience went. There was an adventure aspect to this which was reminiscent of the Spaghetti Westerns of the nineteen-sixties and seventies, especially in the way it looked with its sunbaked landscapes and vast, open skies, though the sight of a flying saucer (actually a drone from the bad guys) up there was an indication this was a plenty more eccentric than your average Western usually mustered. The metaphorical elements, however, were present and correct.

Westerns, you could recognise, were very effective vehicles for making messages, be they conservative or liberal or somewhere in between, and the underdogs versus the corrupt rich theme here was plain to see, and a traditional plotline, however loosely, for countless in that genre. But could you envisage Udo Kier in an oater? He doesn't ride a horse or wear a Stetson, but he does have a gun here, and he puts it to nasty use as he makes sport of the villagers, picking them off one by one with his force of mercenaries who do his bidding, despite reservations when a child is gunned down. In that manner, a siege style was apparent in deliberate tribute to John Carpenter - yes, this was yet another twenty-first century tribute to him as he had become one of the most influential filmmakers of his generation, evidently. But otherwise, this was not identifiably one of his babies, with its bloody violence, casual nudity, and deadpan comedy moments this was very much its own thing and none the worse for it. Music by Mateus Alves and Tomaz Alves Souza (plus a little Carpenter).

[Click here to watch on MUBI.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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