Monday, April 19, 2021

Bacurau (2019)

Wikipedia labels this curiosity, which competed for the Palme d'Or at Cannes a couple years ago, a "Weird Western" and I guess that's all right by me. It's weird all right, a near-future tale set in the fictional backwoods village of Bacurau, in Brazil, where magic and such appear to be afoot. But something more sinister is going on as well. After the death of a matriarch the village disappears from Google Maps, a wobbly UFO which is actually a drone appears to be monitoring their activities, and people are being shot at and sometimes killed. Strange tourists arrive for no particular reason. The village does have a museum—a comical element in the story, perhaps, or maybe subtle foreshadowing of their mysterious powers—but it's not much of a tourist destination. As things go along it more and more appears the villagers are being systematically hunted by neo-Nazi types whose bloodthirst is absurd and infantile (and enraging, of course, in its privilege). They are smug English-speaking 30somethings, probably US Americans, but the leader (Udo Kier) is older and speaks with a German accent. He claims he's lived in Brazil for more than 40 years. It turns out happily enough, as I say, that the villagers have weapons and are formidable in their own right. Another thread here is that the villagers are being denied water by a corrupt state official, who may or may not be in cahoots with the hunting party. My sense was that he is, and that he has sold out the village to take care of a problem of politics related to water. It's probably all open to interpretation. While Bacurau is dressed up a little in the garb of magic realism, I took it more as like Craig Zobel's movie The Hunt or George Hitchcock's story "An Invitation to the Hunt," in which elites are hunting people for sport and/or to make a political point. It seems like I've been exposed to a lot of that lately so I wasn't entirely on board with it here. Still, codirectors and cowriters Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonca Filho bring a lot of zest and energy to it, reminiscent of one of the most original authors of Weird Westerns, Alejandro Jodorowsky. Udo Kier as the grizzled Nazi and Sonia Braga as a village elder who drinks a bit make a good time of it. And there are lots of fun surprises along the way. Worth a look.

1 comment:

  1. There's Spaghetti adjacent US-Euro-Western from 1971 called The Hunting Party (shot in Spain; stars Gene Hackman) that you might throw into this people-hunting-people-for-sport Western genre as well. I'll take a look. Thanks. -Skip