‘Never judge a book by it’s cover’, it’s a saying you can use in many situations including describing films like Kleber Mendoca Filho and Juliano Dornelles‘ Bacurau. A film you may think you about, but you really don’t. All about wealthy inequality, class struggle, dripping in blood-lust and Udo Kier!
More and more we’re seeing films focusing on that struggle, inequality of life and oppression (Parasite, Joker). This film’s roots is deep in Brazil’s colonial past, when foreign interests raped, pillaged their homeland. Amidst government corruption, economic injustice delivered in a riotous exploitative way. Yes folks this film is totally bonkers!
What’s this one all about? We find ourselves in the not too distant future in Brazil. Teresa (Barbara Colen) is heading home for her grandmother’s funeral who lived in the village of Bacurau in the middle of nowhere. The whole village come out to pay their respects to the matriarch, but something nefarious is brewing in the background.
We quickly learn the village is being deprived of it’s basic amenities. The water supply has been cut off and the tanker that does daily runs for water returns riddled with bullet holes. The corrupt town mayor seeking election bribes them with bottled water. The village has been wiped off Google Maps, plus there’s no mobile phone connection. Drones spy on them looking like UFO’s and when strangers come to town.It’s when dead bodies are found,they realise they are part of some deadly game.
Bacurau asks for your patience, with the first half of the films is all about setting the scene. We meet the villagers and they have a fair share of colourful characters. The outspoken alcoholic Doctor Domingues (Sonia Braga), the prodigal grand-daughter Teresa. Reformed gangster Acacio (Thomas Aquino), a local celeb thanks to his past misdemeanours thanks to youtube screened in the village square. There’s also Lunga (Silvero Pereira) who is hiding from the police near by. He’s seen as a savior to the villagers, stuck in a 1980’s timewarp and even has mullet! They may all squabble with each other but they all have one thing in common, they unite when the village is in danger.
If your still with us by the films hour mark, you will be rewarded. When cult actor Udo Kier appears on the screen, the shit hits the fan. The body count rises drastically when he guides rich blood thirsty foreigners ( mostly American) on a safari. Stroking just their egos but money can buy anything including human life.
Without going into too much details or spoiling things further, Bacurau is an rabid exploitation. When the foreign outsiders come to town, the villagers revert into a Seven Samurai defence.
Filho and Dornelles have created a film that pays homage to what they grew up with. From Luis Buñuel, Sergio Leone and most of all John Carpenter. His influence is not just in the narrative and tone, but also retro synth score. If you were paying close attention, you may have noticed around the school there is a sign that says ‘João Carpenteiro’…John Carpenter!
We maybe in the dark when it comes to Brazilian politics, like many countries they are in the centre of political turmoil. All thanks to president Jair Bolsonaro who is simply another narcissistic Donald Trump clone. Whose idiocy policies threaten Brazil in many ways including the film industry.
Bacurau is a neo Spaghetti Western (or ‘weird western’). It will mess with your head as well as feed your craving for escapism. A weird mix of Alejandro Jodorowsky surrealism, politics, satire and off course barbarity. Throw in some 1970’s cinemascope and Star Wars inspired transitions along with Udo Keir hamming it up brilliantly, we have a unforgettable bonkers genre-blending film.
One piece of advice, if you intend to visit the village to cause trouble, before you do anything visit the museum. Then ‘If you you, go in peace‘.
Thriller, Western | Brazil, 2019 | 18 | 27th April 2020 (UK) | Digital, Blu-Ray | Dir.Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonça Filho | Bárbara Colen, Thomas Aquino, Silvero Pereira, Sônia Braga