September 23, 2020

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Sun-baked weirdness

Trippy flick launches Cinematheque at Home

The made-in Brazil Bacurau is a curious film that raises many questions. Perhaps the main question is: Who is its intended audience?

In its first few scenes, it comes off as a slice-of-life kind of social drama set in a remote Brazilian village.

It could be a comedy. We follow the beautiful public health nurse Teresa (Barbara Colen) as she returns to her village with a supply of medicine. She encounters an old gentleman, perhaps a shaman, who feeds her a seedling with psychotropic properties, so that by the time she attends the burial of her revered grandmother Carmelita, she is hallucinating up a storm.

Also, the funeral is interrupted by an explosive rant by the town’s physician Domingas (the great Sonia Braga), whom, we learn, goes off the rails when she’s had a few drinks.

Sonia Braga (centre) as a hard-drinking doctor in Bacurau. (Supplied)</p>

Sonia Braga (centre) as a hard-drinking doctor in Bacurau. (Supplied)

It could be a romantic melodrama: Teresa is drawn to a local outlaw named Pacote (Thomas Aquino), a fearsome man who seems to want to turn over a new leaf, reinventing himself as "Acacio." The reinvention will not last.

It could be political satire. When the town’s "mayor" Tony Junior shows up, the whole town retreats indoors and shouts abuse at him.

It could be science fiction. One of the villagers who leaves before Tony’s arrival finds himself being followed by what looks like a flying saucer. (The film is set a few years in the future.)

Written and directed by Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho, the movie is all those things, of course. But by the time Udo Kier shows up as a menacing, heavily armed wealthy psycho in the company of some like-minded, heavily armed Americans, it is clearly starting to look like a bloody shoot-’em-up.

But even that aspect of the movie doesn’t proceed like one might expect. Some of this has to do with the village itself. On one occasion, suspicious visitors are advised to check out the museum, and their failure to do so, one learns, might have saved the interlopers some pain. (The town’s name evidently translates as "Nighthawk.")

Udo Kier (left) confronts Sonia Braga in Bacurau. (Supplied)</p>

Udo Kier (left) confronts Sonia Braga in Bacurau. (Supplied)

It’s a ridiculously entertaining film, notwithstanding a cumbersome 132-minute running time, and its appeal lies in the richness of the village setting. Imagine for a minute the movie The Magnificent Seven told from the perspective of the Mexican villagers, and not the gringo gunslingers.

Now imagine the villagers each partaking of a bud of peyote before the climactic showdown, and learning gringos with guns are not to be trusted.

So who is the intended audience? Cinematheque patrons, of course.

Bacurau kicks off Cinematheque at Home, a streaming site channelled through Vimeo on Demand that gives Winnipeggers Cinematheque-style movies from the comfort of home, at least as long as COVID-19 keeps the downtown art house closed. It’s a sound choice, recommended for anyone who admired the sun-baked weirdness of past Cinematheque offerings such as Let the Corpses Tan.


Twitter: @FreepKing


Randall King

Randall King

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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