Cannes, Movie Review

Bacurau (2019) by Kleber Mendonça Filho & Juliano Dornelles

Original Name: Bacurau

Director: Kleber Mendonça Filho & Juliano Dornelles

Debut at: May 2019 (132 min)

Country: Brazil (Portugese/English)

IMDB Link: https://imdb.com/title/tt2762506/

Bacurau is another steady step in the right direction for Kleber Mendonça Filho, this time he teams up with his previous production mate Juliano Dornelles. Bacurau isn’t necessary a better movie than his previous outputs (it’s close), but rather Bacurau is the film where he experiments with its format the most. The result is not always a smooth ride, as it causes a major genre shifted one hour in, but at the end it manages to hold up. On top of all that, it still pretty much feels like Filho’s feature there. His fascination on exploring the gap between the past and the present, the old and the modern in a self-contained live-in world is right there, so is his exploration of Brazilian identity. In Bacurau, he utilizes a new weapon: the genre-twisting feature that has tons of absurd imaginaries. Flying saucer, drug consuming, naked old man and woman, hunting for sports, the ghosts… all make appearance, resulting in a movie that is uneven but never stays out its welcome.

Welcome to the town of Bacurau, where we meet the oddball villagers that is set several years in the future, but looks more like a relic of the past. There’s no radio station in the town for example, so one of them broadcast clips from youtube. They have their town museum as a tourist attraction, but no one ever heard of it. The village’s own existence is futile too, as one day the old school-teacher of the village finds out that Bacurau no longer appear on satellite. At first we follow Teresa (Barbara Colen – who serve as a faux protagonist) as she comes back home to bury of the matriarch, Carmelita, who lived to be 94. We get to learn all the eccentric townspeople, most notably Domingas by the great Sônia Braga, a foulmouthed alcoholic doctor before strange events surfaces, body count starts to piling up and the film itself heads into abrupted but interesting territory. Say more with ruin all the fun Bacurau offers, but the film boasts a memorable performance from Udo Kier.

As fresh as this new disguise is, Bacurau still holds some of Filho’s fundamental themes. The disparity between the old, tradition in the form of Bacurau and the modern technology and weapons the other group have play consistently throughout the film. Bacurau might be a village that is stuck in times, but by no mean they are easy to mess with. When the enemies have chromes, snipers and range of badass guns, Bacurau village fights by their knives and old guns. Though vastly different and sometimes even outright hate each other, Bacurau villagers all share a sense of honor and pride. It might bring a potentially dangerous message about the invasion of (mostly white American) outsiders who are all game to invade the village. But take that at face values and you’re missing the point. It’s true that they literally have to protect their land, but I take their action more as protecting the tradition that they’re proud of to the invasion of modern technology and outsiders.

Audiovisual-wise, Bacurau aces. The soundtrack borrows the tune from John Carpenter’s film, one clue which suggests the influence of Bacurau. At oher time, it’s mixing with traditional Brazilian music, and overall they blend well together. The camera purposely leaves hints here and there (such as the coffin seen earlier in the movie), but more than anything Bacurau triumphs because we can never tell what comes next. While this is his most inconsistent feature, Bacurau is also Filho’s boldest, and trickiest one to make it work, yet he did magnificiently.

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