The film festival circuit this year is particularly bizarre. Although there’s a few films that have garnered critical and awards praise that deserve their recognition (with films such as Parasite, Marriage Story, American Factory, and Jojo Rabbit in mind), it seems as though there’s a recurring pattern of films that fall into the same trap of the same problem. Most of these films are weird, psychedelic/spiritual journeys that attempt to be smarter than what they actually are; both in surface value and in thematic depth. The Lighthouse, Monos, Uncut Gems and About Endlessness are a few examples of this blasted trend. Now, with Bacurau, my worst nightmare has come true. After the magnificent Aquarius, Kleber Mendonça Filho and co-director Juliano Dornelles’ Cannes Jury Prize winning followup, is a ludicrous science fiction punk western.
Set in the near future in a remote village, Bacurau follows the trials and tribulations of a community persecuted by the oppressive forces of genocidal Americans, high tech surveillance, and a devilish Udo Kier. As awesome as the film may sound, Bacurau’s direction ultimately plummets into a rabbit-hole of missed opportunities. For a film that builds so much tension, and intensifies the stakes, the end finale ultimately leads to nothing. What also could have been an excellent discussion starter on cultural assimilation and the bi-product of hateful prejudicial violence, Filho and Dornelles do nothing with their concept. It’s strange, especially coming from the director who’s previous feature was a wondrous thought-provoking character study, revolving around themes of gentrification and evolving society.
Even with the lack of thematic weight, there’s still not enough going for the film, in terms of character development and stark surrealism. The large majority of the inhabitants of Bacurau are one-dimensional quirky cliches, who only serve a purpose towards the film’s mixed arrangements of tones and playful violence. Drained with an absurd amount of quick cuts, extreme zooms, and cross-fades; Bacurau’s style can be best described as 90’s camp piece from hell. It’s another plain and simple case of a lost opportunity to satirize and comment on the revolving cycles of evil; in exchange for a monotonous pulp piece.
Bacurau is an insatiable, blunt, and heavily condescending modernist spaghetti western. For fans of midnight movies, absurdist minimalist action films, and/or slow-paced nonsense, Bacurau is the film for you! For everyone else, see a different Cannes-winning film. While there won’t be anything like Filho and Dornelles vision in the near future; maybe the end result is for the greater good. Prepare to be immensely bored by an unidentified flying object, horny killers, and a mean-spirited Sônia Braga!
Bacurau screened at this year’s Festival Du Nouveau Cinema. Kino Lorber will release the film in the coming months.