Boi Neon (Neon Bull)
23rd January 7200 2.44pm at Ritzy Cinema
23rd January 6400 2.44pm at BFI Southbank (NFT)
Brazilian drama Neon Bull, written and directed by Gabriel Mascaro, is a story of dreams amid the dusty, rural backdrop of Brazilian rodeo. The plot revolves around Iremar (Juliano Cazarre), a rodeo cattle hand who harbours aspirations of designing and tailoring his own line of fancy (albeit risqué) women’s clothing. His model and muse is Galega (Maeve Jinkings), an exotic dancer with a precocious young daughter, Cacá (Alyne Santana). Along with the rest of the rodeo cattle crew, they forge a patchwork family of sorts as they muddle through their daily existence, trying to make ends meet but barely succeeding.
The idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder is explored both visually and thematically. Director of photography Diego Garcia’s striking landscapes and stirring images effectively set the tone, while creating a world that’s as strange, new and unfamiliar for the viewer as it is natural and comfortable for the characters. The fashions Iremar creates are not what most would consider classy attire, but the care and diligence he puts into each piece (painstakingly sketching his ideas out on women in pornographic magazines and spending nights hunched over his modest sewing machine) clearly illustrate his passion to make something Galega can feel beautiful in. Also notable are sections with Iremar’s romantic interest, the very pregnant Geise (Samya de Lavor), in particular an extended and rather graphic, but tastefully filmed, sex scene.
There are some laughs amid the drama – an attempt to steal a prize stallion’s sperm goes comically awry – but the strength of the script lies in the non-generic nature of the characters’ relationships with one another. There is genuine trust and fondness between Iremar and Galega, but there is no carnal attraction between them to distract the viewer. Instead, their demonstration of mutual respect and the warmth he shows toward whip-smart, but sensitive Cacá, makes their bond almost sibling-like. Galega and Cacá clash often, but they are a tightly-knit unit; their relationship plays authentically, as one would expect from a disillusioned and overwhelmed mother struggling to raise a headstrong adolescent in a less-than-perfect environment.
Neon Bull offers a peek into a surreal lifestyle that challenges its audience on multiple levels. It may not be palatable for more conservative viewers, but for those who can embrace and celebrate its unconventional appeal, it is an interestingly rewarding cinematic experience.
Boi Neon (Neon Bull) does not have a UK release date yet.