Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Looking for something strange, sensual and South American? Gabriel Mascaro's NEON BULL

If the Portuguese word vaquejada doesn't ring an immediate bell, you'll remember it after viewing the Brazilian film, NEON BULL. (You're going to remember a few other things about this movie, as well.) Vaquejada is a kind of Brazilian rodeo sport in which the bull -- dehorned, it seems -- is trapped between two horses and then pulled to the ground not by the usual roping that we're used to but by yanking very hard on the bull's tail until he is forced to the ground.

If this seems a bit silly at first (and second and third) glance, it is probably only a tad more so than our version. And it's a hell of a lot easier on the bull than, say, bullfighting.

Vaquejada appears to be the subject of writer/director Gabriel Mascaro's new movie (the filmmaker is shown at left), but it turns out to be only one of them. Another is clothing design, a skill to which our hero, Iremar, aspires -- to this end using the lithe body of his "companion," Galega, who earns her living as an "exotic dancer" (two photos down), as his model. Iremar's "money" job is dusting the tails of those bulls prior to their pulling, and another of his roles is being a kind of surrogate father to Galega's on-the-cusp-of-the-teen-years daughter. That our boy manages all of this -- and a good deal more -- is a testament to his strength, virility and focus.

Iremar is played by an actor you'll not soon forget named Juliano Cazarré (above), who has some 29 credits on his resume, though I doubt that any of them will resonate quite the way this role does. Cazarré possess a masculine beauty, strength and grace that puts him immediately in a class by himself. Facially and physically -- from his stature and movement to his sizeable cock, which is on lengthy display during a group shower scene -- he's a standout. His acting,too, seems just right for this particular role that calls for a combination of strength, focus and keeping any emotion very close to the vest.

Filmmaker Mascaro creates a small, strange but almost cozy little world here, a kind of makeshift extended family in which, finally, your heart goes out to that deprived daughter but to no one else. The others, due most likely to their hardscrabble lives, put their immediate needs and desires above everything and everyone else.

Iremar uses Galega (Maeve Jinkings, above) as the model for his clothing "creations," which will not, I think, set the fashion world ablaze anytime soon. The two seem to have no sexual relationship, however. She instead does it with a young newcomer to the group, while he has a lengthy, full-out sexual encounter with a very pregnant woman (shown below and not fertilized by our man) whom he meets as she hawks her perfumes.

The sex is enormously sensual and absolutely consensual. It's hot as hell, too, but it does not appear to draw the participants any closer -- except momentarily/physically. Yet Iremar seems every bit as concerned with protecting the baby in his partner's belly as he does with getting his own rocks off. Cazarré's work in this scene, as in the rest of the film, exudes the kind of masculinity that never needs to push. It's simply full-out and on display at all times.

Mascaro's pacing is leisurely-unto-languid but so specific in what it lets us view from scene to scene that his film never bores. He shows us a world that, though it may be ordinary to some Brazilians who live in these specific areas, will seem much like Mars to the rest of us (a shopping mall in the middle of a completely desolate landscape?).

For Iremar, what matters is his clothing designs and making enough money to get them going. To this end there's a scene in a stable involving bringing a stud horse to climax in order to steal its semen to sell and then purchase a better sewing machine.

The other men may make fun of Iremar and his sewing habit (the term "faggot"is tossed about jokingly), but homosexuality per se is absent from the movie. That group shower with Iremar and his coworkers, however, is one of the most homoerotic in cinema history, ending with Iremar standing like a naked king surrounded by his kneeling, submissive courtiers.

If I've conveyed even half of the sublime strangeness of this Brazilian movie, then I've succeeded -- somewhat, at least. When Cacá (a lovely, sad, spirited performance by newcomer Alyne Santana, below) -- the young daughter who will probably never know either the mother or father she deserves -- asks Iremar for a hug and he gives it (above), the emotional high point of the movie is reached. And that happens maybe one-third into the film's 101 minutes. Afterward, everyone simply goes back to his or her next step on the way to momentary satisfaction.

Neon Bull, released by Kino Lorber, opens this Friday, April 8, in New York City at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and on April 15 in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Ahrya Fine Arts and Noho 7. To see all currently scheduled playdates with cities and theaters, click here and scroll down.

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