There are those who will surely argue that this is not a tonally coherent film. But I was nonetheless rather elated by the way Filho weaves in so many outside touchstones while still maintaining his core interests in social dynamics and anti-capitalist sentiment.
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There may not be a map for navigating this gonzo film, but nevertheless, Bacurau is a blood-soaked adventure worth seeking out.
At once both more forceful and more inscrutable than Filho’s previous work, Bacurau plunges deeper into midnight territory as its core ideas take hold, its ghosts become literal, and its heroes take up arms.
The resulting genre stew is rich and flavorsome, if also somewhat chunky and uneven. The characters are thinly drawn by design, but Mendonça Filho and Dornelles know how to use the magnetism of their actors to maximum advantage.
This might not be the film you’re quite expecting from the director of arthouse dramas focused on modern life in Brazil, but it fits right in as a variation and continuation of Mendonça Filho’s pet themes.
It is a really strange film, beginning in a kind of ethno-anthropology and documentary style, becoming a poisoned-herd parable or fever dream and then a Jacobean-style bloodbath. It is an utterly distinctive film-making, executed with ruthless clarity and force.
Though shot in striking anamorphic widescreen and laced with references to John Carpenter, Sergio Leone and the like, Bacurau doesn’t quite work in traditional genre-movie terms. Rather, it demands the extra labor of unpacking its densely multilayered subtext to appreciate.
Though handsome in style and admirable in ambition, this sprawling neo-Western never comes together as a satisfying whole.
It’s disturbing and messy, a fever dream for a disturbing and messy time in Brazil. And occasionally, it’s a lot of fun, too.
The combination of satire and savagery is pretty fierce and intriguingly unique.