Review: Neon Bull

An intensely sensual and magnetic movie of rare beauty. Juliano Cazarré is a mesmerizing leading man, playing to both the muscular and sensitive sides of masculinity.

Every now and then a film comes along that utterly transports you to a world less well know, and that’s the case with Brazilian writer/director Gabriel Mascaro’s shimmering dust cloud of complex masculinity and straining sensuality Neon Bull (Boi Neon).

An unexpected highlight of this year’s MIFF for me, Juliano Cazarré is hypnotic in the lithely muscular role of travelling rodeo bull wrangler Iremar. Almost at one with the beast’s he wrestles, he’s all spit and swagger. And yet he’s chameleonic. Wading into cracked mud pits after work, he retrieves various body parts of abandoned mannequins. Taking them back to his vagabond digs, he adorns them with the inventive fashion piece he crafts from similarly unwanted junk.

Maeve Jinkings is also captivating as his similarly resistant to labeling partner in crime Galega, a single mother truck driver by day, waxing herself with sticky tape in the cab, and club dancer by night, where she showcases Iremar’s animal like creations by night, with a McQueen like haunted beauty.

There’s a fiery passion between them, and yet they are more closely defined as stand-in siblings, both keeping an eye out on Galega’s restless young daughter.

Relishing a meandering sequence of moments, rather than abiding by a traditional plot structure, there’s an aching beauty, a sort of wistful poetry that hangs heavy over Neon Bull. Magical realism whipped up from the dirt the dirt by Diego García’s cinematography and elevated by Carlos Montenegro and Otavia Santos’ score, complete with performance art segues of man versus animal, including the submission of a stallion that is truly staggering to behold.

The hopes hand dreams of Iremar are intoxicating, bound up with the animals he so roughly manhandles, with Cazarré a stunning leading man. An intensely sexual creation, there are two sublimely comic moments playing on his machismo. One involves he and a co-worker’s misfired attempt to steal bull sperm, and a mirrored moment when the porn magazines he sketches his exotic creations on are rendered useless by the same substance, this time of human provenance.

A film to lose oneself in, Neon Bull is a creature of rare beauty from Mascaro that instills the disciplines of his extensive documentary work and transplants that honesty to a truly magnetic movie dealing in simple truths.

Stephen A Russell @SARussellwords

★★★★