Monday, April 11, 2016


The Brazilian director Gabriel Mascaro’s Neon Bull was highly touted by The Times "'Neon Bull,' With Creatures Great and Small," 4/7/16) and there were intimations of exotic sexuality to boot. With all that's appeared on the screen from Blue is the Warmest Color to Gaspar Noe's Lovethat’s a pretty tall order. Actually Neon Bull might better be titled Fashion Designer in a Bullpen, as the central character Iremar (Juliano Cazare) is a cowboy by day who dreams of being a fashion designer by night. He draws his designs on the centerfolds of pornographic magazines and his scavenging for mannequins in a muddy dump recalls Waste Land, Lucy Walker's film about the artist Vik Muniz and the Jardim Gramacho. Iremar has an ambiguous relationship with Galega (Maeve Jinklings) an exotic dancer who dons a horse’s head and hooves as part of her act and looks like she'd once been extra in Eyes Wide Shut. In the course of the movie Iremar has an affair with Geise (Samya De Lavor), the pregant security guard in a panties factory. It is shall we see say Iremar’s backdoor entry into the world he aspires to and one can't help think of Annie Leibovitz's famous Vanity Fair cover of the pregnant Demi Moore. Lautreamont's "the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table" is often used as a definition of surrealism. (Was Iremar and Gelse's lovenest with its sewing machine a reference to the Lautremont quote?) So any film dealing with unlikely appositions or oppositions, in the service of a surrealist esthetic, is going to be jolting. Bunuel and Dali’s Un Chien Andalou was one of the most famous illustrations of jarring contrasts with a nude woman, a bicyclist in a nun's habit and the famous slit eyeball providing the requisite cocktail of humor, sexuality and aggression. But what is missing in Neon Bull is the weaving that characterizes great surrealist works. Mascara's scenes are mini homiletics that end abruptly, with lots of fervor, but little elegance or flow from one to the other. The movie is fragmented and jumpy and after a while you wonder what all the fuss is about. Even the sex, which does succeed in adding one more color to an otherwise crowded palette seems to have a take it or leave it quality. Are we supposed to be shocked, titillated or enthralled and to what end? Even though the point that men and animals have something in common is hammered out in almost every take, the film ultimately seems disjointed, with most of the incipient drama foreshortened and dissipated by film's jumpy and often jagged cutting and pacing.

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