NEON BULL, Brazil, 2015. Starring Juliano Cazarre, Maeve Jinkings, Alyne Santana. Directed by Gabriel Mascaro. 101 minutes. Rated R (High impact sex scene).
One of the advantages of watching a film that comes from an unfamiliar country is that it opens up audience horizons, seeing different locations, encountering different people, sometimes very different ways of life. This is the case with Neon Bull.
On paper, the subject of the film might not seem particularly interesting or attractive. And, this might be the case for many audiences who watch the film, its unfamiliarity, and, especially its earthiness.
Actually, there is only one neon bull during the whole film. but, there are many bulls, the film opening with stalls crammed with bulls, some on top of each other. Audience puzzle is soon answered as we see the bulls being moved from stall to stall by some tough cowboys. We see the central character, Iremar, getting the tail of each bull, fluffing it, putting said in its tail – and then sending the bull out into an arena, a local rodeo in the north of the country, where a line is drawn across the middle of the arena and the cowboys have to topple the bull before they reach that mark. For those apprehensive about animal cruelty, it doesn’t look the best, nor with the cramming of the balls into the stalls and onto trucks travelling from town to town for a rodeos, but most of the bulls stand up after their fall pretty readily – with the exception of one who struggles to rise.
When the rodeo takes place at night, some of the bulls are covered in neon paint – hence the title.
But the film is really about the people, about Iremar, in his mid-30s, strong and tough with the bulls, with the other men in the team, involved in hard work. Surprisingly, he has a dream of being a tailor, measuring the woman in the group for costumes for a cabaret act where she dons a horse’s head and gyrates to the loud applause of the very male audience. Iremar sews the handpicked cloth with his small sewing machine, and, later in the film, he has the opportunity to tour an enormous clothing factory, full of machines bigger than his, a place where he would really like to work.
In the close-knit group which travels from town to town is the woman who drives and who dances at the cabaret, along with her daughter with whom she is continually squabbling, a rather independent-minded little girl who loves horses rather than bulls. Then there is the large Ze, the butt of a lot of jokes, and Junior, who spends a lot of time ironing his long hair.
The film focuses at quite some length on a lot of episodes, getting the audience to ponder the detail, cooking and meals, driving, the men and communal washing, the tour of the factory, a pregnant woman touring the rodeo and selling perfumes, a lengthy and rather explicit sexual encounter.
The director obviously has some affection for these people and shows them in a fairly straightforward way without making judgements on them. He invites the audience to do the same.
Potential Films Released November 10th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.