Constantly zigging where you expect it to zag, ‘Bacurau’ is a political satire… until it becomes something far more different and creative.
I can guarantee that in my nearly six years of writing movie reviews, casually or otherwise, I can guarantee that Bacurau is the first film where I wrote the “…UFOs??” in my notes. To provide context is impossible. To try would ruin some of the most entertaining hours I’ve spent in a movie theater this year. Other notes in my little notebook included “Not lost, but… what?” and “Coffins!” and “I love the crime lord’s nail polish.” By the end of the screening, I just stopped writing. Instead, I doodled a smiley face and a flying saucer. I would challenge anyone else to sum the film up more succinctly.
On its surface, Bacurau is set “A few years from now” (as the captions explain) and is the story of a younger woman named Teresa (Bárbara Colen) who returns to her hometown following her grandmother’s death, discovering how the town has fared in her long absence. Medicine is low, food is self-grown, and the roads are often blocked. The people of the titular town of Bacurau live ordinary lives in isolation, only contending with a corrupt mayor from a town over seeking to overtake Bacurau’s independence.
But slowly Teresa slips from the spotlight. The ensemble grows to include her father, the town’s doctor (Sônia Braga), an ex-lover, and a few people from out of town. The film also grows more sinister when the mayor kidnaps and abuses a sex worker from Bacurau. Things get worse after a random horse stampede occurs, leading to questions about security. And then the film becomes nonsensical when the film seems to be leading to an alien invasion or something. Because that’s exactly what Kleber Mendonça Filho, director of Aquarius, wants to achieve. And achieve it he does.
All of these small points compound to explanations. There are musical scenes and drug trips, and competing crime lords. At one point, something pulls Bacurau from the map of Brazil, and discussions of property and land rights occur. And the deep political ideas of Bacurau mesh with the craziness to form somethings wholely unique. To compare it to anything, I think of the works of Paul Verhoeven in the 80s and 90s. Robocop and Showgirls and Starship Troopers feel equally violent and subversive. The satire is strong in Bacurau, and it easily belongs in that category of film.
Saying more would spoil the fun, so go into Bacurau without knowing too much. This review might seem to give up some of the best bits of the film, but I promise I didn’t even get more than a third of the way into the film. This deserves to be seen by all, and if there was justice in the world it would reach the audiences of Mad Max: Fury Road and Tarantino and more. Because people deserve to see Bacurau, just as the fictional world of Mendonça’s creation deserves to see Bacurau the town.
Bacurau will be released by Kino Lorber in early 2020