Neon Bull

NEON BULL, drama, not rated, in Por­tuguese with sub­ti­tles, The Screen, 3 chiles

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - — Priyanka Ku­mar

Neon Bull is set against the back­drop of the vaque­jada, an ex­hi­bi­tion sport in which cow­boys (vaque­iros) on horse­back at­tempt to pull bulls to the ground by their tails. This sen­su­ous mood piece is the Brazil­ian equiv­a­lent of a film by Wong Kar-wai. In the same way that the Hong Kong film­maker em­ploys lo­cal touches, such as steaming bowls of noo­dles to evoke ro­mance in movies like In the Mood for Love, writer-di­rec­tor Gabriel Mas­caro uses the dirt kicked up by bulls and, say, a char­ac­ter nap­ping in a worn ham­mock to suf­fuse this film with im­agery of dreams and long­ing. Cin­e­matog­ra­pher Diego Gar­cía has cho­sen mauves, tans, and off-whites to in­deli­bly con­jure up the rodeo cir­cuit and the char­ac­ters — and bulls — who pop­u­late it. A bull han­dler, Ire­mar (Ju­liano Cazarré) is re­ally a cos­tume de­signer at heart. He trav­els from rodeo to rodeo along with the troupe’s truck driver Galega (Maeve Jink­ings), who is also an ex­otic dancer, and her tween daugh­ter, Cacá (Alyne San­tana). The film doesn’t have a de­fined sto­ry­line; in­stead, it moves from one sit­u­a­tion to the next — one episode in­volves a horse’s bod­ily flu­ids — while we fol­low the ev­ery­day lives of the char­ac­ters. It pre­miered at the Venice In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, where it won a Spe­cial Oriz­zonti Jury Prize. This is the sec­ond fea­ture by Mas­caro, whose video in­stal­la­tions have screened at mu­se­ums in­clud­ing New York’s Guggen­heim.

Galega drives Ire­mar and his co-work­ers, in­clud­ing the bulls, from one gig to the next, and they share the ca­ma­raderie of a the­ater troupe. There is a lot of riff­ing along the way — is don­key milk fit for drink­ing? — with heavy-set bull wran­gler Zé (Car­los Pes­soa) as a comic trig­ger. Mas­caro uses the setup of hu­mans and an­i­mals liv­ing in close quar­ters to bring out the sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the two — we can all but smell the hu­man sweat and the horse ma­nure. Oc­ca­sion­ally, a char­ac­ter falls face-down into animal flu­ids. This film is a worth­while coun­ter­point to the highly san­i­tized ex­is­tence so many of us lead. The jokes and some of the bizarre sit­u­a­tions that fol­low are not for the faint of heart. One imag­ines that Ernest Hem­ing­way, who wrote about bull­fight­ing in Death in the Af­ter­noon, would fol­low Ire­mar’s ad­ven­tures with some­thing ap­proach­ing glee. Cacá loves horses, not bulls. One day, Galega tells Ire­mar that Cacá will prob­a­bly never be able to af­ford a horse. Ire­mar says she should not make that as­sump­tion.The most qui­etly poignant mo­ments in this un­sen­ti­men­tal film are the ex­changes be­tween Ire­mar and Cacá. In one scene, while Ire­mar uses a saw to de­sign an ex­otic cos­tume, Cacá asks if he thinks her fa­ther will ever come back. We are never told why he has left. Ire­mar en­cour­ages the girl to go in search of him. Ei­ther Cacá is moved by the blunt ad­vice or she sim­ply misses her fa­ther so much that she asks Ire­mar to give her a hug. While Ire­mar is an un­usual fa­ther sub­sti­tute for Cacá, his cre­ative and au­da­cious dreams lift this earthy film into a more po­etic realm.

Sen­ti­men­tal bull: Ju­liano Cazarré

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