Bacurau

Review contains spoilers

Bacurau is a Brazilian Weird Western with lots of bullets and blood, and not, as I had originally thought, mostly about a Google Maps dystopia erasing indigenous communities. It’s still about the erasing of indigenous communities, in a big way, but that erasure is not merely surreally technological, but very straight up literal through a group of white people who have rolled up upon Bacurau to carry out their own personal Most Dangerous Game.

And that’s where this movie started to kinda shake apart for me. Just because they’d done such a good job endearing me toward this little town through an unhurried, nuanced, funny and beautiful opening. These characters and their relationships to one another were all so rich and layered, and then after about 45 minutes or so, these racist cartoons showed up. I mean, it’s a whole conversation whether it’s more artistically moral to depict bigoted characters as just flat evil and irredeemable or more complicated and humanized, and my answer would be: each has their place in different kinds of works! I have no problem with deranged trigger-happy white supremacists as a genre concept, my issue is just that they’re so one-note that when they started taking time away from the real characters, I think the movie suffered. Sure it’s definitely The Point that the people of Bacurau feel alive and human and interesting and the hunters do not, but it’s just a fact of simplistic characters that they’re less engaging to watch. My solution would be really simple: just cut down a whole lot of their screen time. We don’t actually need it, we can put together what’s happening as the people of Bacurau do, alongside them. I think that would have been a better balance just from an entertainment perspective, maybe also an artistic one for that matter, without losing the central conceit of what this movie is trying to do as an anti-imperialist revenge fantasy.

I do think Bacurau is ultimately successful, I just found it noticeably not as strong as it could have been, in that latter part. Again, part of it comes from how much I really enjoyed the beginning portion. Things like the couple on the outskirts of town radioing over to I think everyone’s cell phones to let them know someone’s driving up, all like “you’ve got two minutes until that asshole mayoral candidate shows up, two minutes,” is such a fantastic way to illustrate community, something deep in my human soul just thrilled to that. And it’s visually fun and pretty too, with some psychedelic little bits of editing that had my quietly cheering, just sitting alone on my couch. And there was a part about the town disappearing from maps for me to enjoy.

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