February 27, 2021 1:06 PM - Subscribe
In the Brazilian hinterlands of the near future, the small town of Bacurau mourns the loss of its matriarch and struggles without a supply of water. The town has disappeared from the maps and mayor Tony Junior seems to be no help at all. Then there's the matter of the UFO drones and the damned revolutionary Lunga. A weird western, maybe, with Sônia Braga and Udo Kier.
That place is Brazil’s backcountry or sertão and, even more specifically, a quilombo, one of the many settlements originally founded by escaped enslaved people. In “Bacurau,” the filmmakers have created a version of a settlement that Mendonça Filho, in an interview with Film Comment, called a “remixed quilombo”: “a black community, a historical place of resistance, but with some white, indigenous, trans and other inhabitants.” When, midway through, some townspeople begin practicing capoeira — a combat game that originated with enslaved Africans — they are both communing with that history of defiance and readying for a new battle.Currently streaming on Kanopy and the Criterion Channel.
When the fight finally arrives it’s by turns absurd and horrifying. The second half of “Bacurau” is unsparing in its violence, filled with gunfire, terror in the night and revolutionary fervor that skews pathological. There’s a bandit in eyeliner, a fierce squirt (Silvero Pereira), and a gang of Americans right out of a Hollywood blowout. After an hour of silky camera moves, amusing details and a deep sense of history, Mendonça Filho and Dornelles switch gears, fold in a homage to John Carpenter and go berserk, unleashing a nightmare that’s all the worse for being eerily like life.
-- Manohla Dargis, NYT