When in despair, it turns out to be Brazil that comes through with your oddball western as you might be looking for one. Directing and writing duo Kleber Mendonça Filho’s and Juliano Dornelles’ Bacurau is set in the country’s northern parts in a fictional town of same name, where strange occurrences begin to happen after a notable figure and citizen passes away. There’s a lack of phone signal, sightings of flying saucers in the sky, town’s disappearance on online maps and unnoticed bullet holes in a water truck. You as a viewer are placed into the local community to find out what is causing all of this as the film keeps taking unexpected turns while providing excellent thrills in the cat-and-mouse game of tension and release. A lot of that will keep your eyes on the action while the social commentary offers some thinking afterwards.
Bacurau has the immense ability to immediately stand on its own which is extremely enjoyable to sit through when watching a film. It clearly comes from pure frustration of politics and economic inequality which is evident in an early scene where the local mayor comes into town whom the residents aren’t very keen on. When you tap into that kind of specificity, the storytelling has a strong shoulder to lean on. Visually that picture is also well composed as the filmmakers clearly have fun with camera lenses, techniques, town’s local musician and moody lighting at night time. The uncertainty of it all however is the thing that intrigues, the movie changes perspectives unexpectedly and very quickly at times so its twists land much harder than usual.
Despite being set in near future, Bacurau feels quite contemporary, perhaps to show that for poorer places in the country not much has changed. The film is also at its strongest when the focus is on local people, more specifically during more thriller-y moments (scene at the farm, final showdown are highlights). Whenever we cut to the ’’Americans’’, lead by animated Udo Kier (as Michael), it’s much less interesting and poignant. The dialogue is especially pretty subpar as a lot of the English spoken is actually hard to understand because the delivery is lazy (in real life you’d have to ask people to repeat themselves) and it’s more slogans than anything. In the town, the characters like Pacote (Thomas Aquino), Teresa (Bárbara Colen) and Domingas (Sônia Braga) are much better written, however the movie could’ve benefitted from stronger acting by the cast. One who stood out was Silvero Pereira as the wanted criminal Lunga, Pereira had tremendous charisma as the character also had bigger-than-galaxy luminosity, not to mention the mullet which was just the cherry on top.
Smileys: Originality, atmosphere, premise, Silvero Pereira
Also some surprisingly gnarly gore if you’ve missed that in your previous western films.