Bacurau – NYFF Review

The vibrant display of ritualistic mourning that opens Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles’ Bacurau instantly thrusts us into a state of kinship with this fictional village’s population. A funeral for a character we’ve never met carries immense weight even though we are not familiar with each inhabitant of Bacurau as individuals.

Despite the absence of clean water and a growing drug epidemic, Bacurau is a community at, more or less, its most cohesive; it’s far from a utopia, but the people’s ability to rally in both communal joy and rage suggests, at least, harmony. It’s clear something’s not right from the onset; glimpses of a futuristic world (which we are never shown the full scope of) clash with the otherwise rural landscape, threatening impending doom. Filho and Dornelles fully embrace the goofiness some of their high-concept imagery intentionally evokes, while dignifying it with their gorgeously playful formalism.

Bacurau is not a film defined by its concept, though; it feels as if Filho and Dornelles go out of their way to avoid expanding upon their sci-fi ideas beyond what we’re shown. It’s refreshing to see a “genre film” (I guess that’s what we’re calling them these days) focus so intently on its characters, their dynamics, and the inherent comedy that stems from their daily routines while allowing the genre elements to creep autonomously in the background. American exploitation filmmaking ideals – namely the blurring between violence and sex – are used in significant effect to not only depict colonialism but to lampoon those responsible for such power. In other words: a ton of crazy shit happens, and I don’t want to go into detail. It’s also worth noting that Udo Kier is as terrifying and hilarious as ever here, and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in which he adjusts his crotch after watching the video of a violent act says everything about his ability as an actor and the directors’ intent.

Rating: B+

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