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Review: Violent, Dazzling 'Bacurau' A Product of Our Times

by Sam Cohen
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jul 14, 2020
Review: Violent, Dazzling 'Bacurau' A Product of Our Times

Using genre (i.e. western, drama, sci-fi, etc.) as a framework to make a film more accessible has long been a tactic used by filmmakers. Yet, Brazilian filmmakers Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles use genre as a springboard to launch their ideas and uncover the insidiousness of new-age colonialism in a way that's thrilling, demented and deeply felt. Their film "Bacurau" may have been released at the beginning of the current pandemic, but it's clear to this reviewer, and many others, that the film will endure thanks to its rare timelessness.

Arriving on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber, "Bacurau" gets the red-carpet treatment with a release that boasts a stunning video transfer as well as plenty of special features for viewers to dig into. If after the film you're more interested in the works of Dornelles and Filho, you need only look at the bonus features section here. Add in a terrific booklet essay by Fábio Andrade, and you have a release that's more than worthy of the film it presents.

Bacurau is a small village in the ertão backcountry of the Brazilian state of Pernambuco that becomes overwhelmed by a team of armed mercenaries tasked with wiping the town off of the face of the earth, even if that means decimating its small population. Teresa (Bárbara Colen) and the rest of the townspeople must revolt against the mercenaries, using what little resources they have.

The thing that struck me so hard about "Bacurau" is that Filho and Dornelles are clearly a fan of the works of John Carpenter, Sam Peckinpah, and other famous American directors, but they only use the hallmarks of other directors to bolster their own narrative. Without the American influence, the film's story can more than withstand further contemplation. Every character, every action seems shaped by the harsh, albeit ironic and often very funny, throes of white colonialism that threaten to overtake the town.

Here's a place with a very significant and deep cultural identity, so it's pretty fitting that a bunch of white people has been hired to remove it. "Bacurau" doesn't mince words about being made in the age of Trump; rather, it uses the heightened sense of national pride to inform us about Brazilian culture. And it does it all while also delivering a shocking, violent good time. It being so wildly successful as a narrative is a triumph, full stop.

As for special features, there's a great early short from Juliano Dornelles titled "Mens sana in corpore sana" that's less a precursor to "Bacurau" and more another pointedly political piece about professional physical fitness in Brazil. This Blu-ray is worth picking up alone for the hour-long documentary "Bacurau on the Map," about the making of the film. It's a terrific insider's look at the film and its production, showcasing how Dornelles and Filho created a kind of community with the cast that's great to watch.

This release comes highly recommended. Other special features include:

• Deleted Scene
• Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles and Sonia Braga in conversation (courtesy of Film at Lincoln Center)
• New interview with Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles
• Theatrical trailer

Kino Lorber Blu-ray

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