Brazil has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. The Summer Olympics set to debut in Rio de Janeiro a month from now have been overshadowed by increasing gang and police violence. Zika virus, a failing economy and governmental corruption have also helped paint a bleak picture where fear has become the national currency.
Gabriel Mascaro's Neon Bull provides a different vision of modern Brazil. It takes place behind the dusty scenes of a popular rodeo sport called "vaquejada," where cowboys grab the bull by the tail instead of the horns. Iremar (Juliano Cazarré) carries out monotonous maintenance duties, tends to the massive animals and designs his own outfits from discarded clothing material. His colleague Galega (Maeve Jinkings) wears these dresses and a horse head mask during surreal afterhours dance numbers performed for local men.
The film creates a distinct sense of time and place, following the characters into their makeshift domiciles and elaborate corrals that guide each bull toward the arena. It's impossible to distinguish between the mud and shit that cakes the ground. Vibrant splashes of color can be found in otherwise rustic and cramped locations.
Mascaro and his talented cinematographer Diego GarcÌa (who also shot Cemetery of Splendour), calmly traverse the neo-Western landscape with slow long takes, calling attention to specific details in the corner of the frame. Like a Brazilian Josh Brolin, Cazarré embodies Iremar with silent resiliency and brute determination.
Neon Bull, which opens Friday, July 15, at the Digital Gym Cinema, might be remembered for its two-showstopper scenes (this one's not for the kiddos). But the film is equally powerful during its many quiet scenes, where characters pinned between lethargy and economic destitution eke out a daily existence and the occasional joyous encounter. It would all feel like a dream if it weren't so deeply rooted in the here and now.
Captain Fantastic: Six children who’ve been raised off the grid in the forest join their recently widowed father for a road trip to the city.
Desde allá: A middle age homosexual man decides to pursue a relationship with a teenager who assaulted him in their first encounter. Screens through Thursday, July 21, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Ghostbusters: Watch out boys, there are some new girls in town. Director Paul Feig reboots the classic comedy franchise about ghoul-capturing scientists with Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wiig.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople: In this comedy from New Zealand, young Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) and his “uncle” Hec (Sam Neill) find themselves hunted by government officials through the woods because of a mistaken assumption.
Ken Classics: Blue Velvet (7/15), Raiders of the Lost Ark (7/16), Funny Girl (7/17), A Street Car Named Desire (7/18), Ran (7/19), Breakfast At Tiffany’s (7/20), and The Maltese Falcon (7/21) will be presented through the week. Screens from Friday, July 15, to Thursday, July 21, at the Ken Cinema.
Lucha Mexico: The directors of this documentary were given unprecedented access to multiple major Lucha organizations and their stars. Screens through Thursday, July 21, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Neon Bull: Set in the dusty backcountry of Brazil, this sensual drama concerns the daily life of a cowboy who works in the sport of vaquejada and dreams of designing clothing. Screens through Thursday, July 21, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The Infiltrator: Bryan Cranston plays Federal Agent Robert Mazur, who in 1986 went undercover to infiltrate the drug trafficking network of Pablo Escobar.
One Time Only
Ghostbusters: Revisit the classic comedy starring Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd before the new all-female remake hits theaters. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July
13, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
An American in Paris: In Vincente Minnelli’s colorful musical, three friends struggle to find work in Paris. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 14 and 15, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Midnight in Paris: Owen Wilson plays an engaged screenwriter who travels to Paris and finds himself going back in time every night at midnight. Screens at 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, July 16 and 17, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: Maybe not the most politically correct Indiana Jones entry, but this adventure film about the charismatic archeologist infiltrating a secret cult is good fun. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 18, at the La Jolla Arclight Cinemas.
The Sandlot: A bunch of kids play baseball in the 1950s and have a damn good time. Life, as it should be. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 19, at the La Jolla Arclight Cinemas.
The Empire Strikes Back: In the sequel to Star Wars, Luke finds himself under the tutelage of Yoda and Hand tries to escape the death grip of Jabba the Hutt. theScreens at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 19, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Return of the Jedi: Underrated. Those Ewoks are amazing. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 20, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.