Neon Bull


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

'I didn't want to subvert the gender roles or invert them but to dilate them'
"Mascaro is completely in control of his material."

Contrasts are everywhere in Gabriel Mascaro's Neon Bull, from the title with its tension between ideas of town and country, and earthiness and the manmade right through its subject matter and colour palette, which embraces both the elemental tones associated with documentary and highly stylised segments featuring splashes of the neon from the title.

Iremar (Juliano Cazarré) also avoids easy categorisation, working by day at the vaquejada - a type of rodeo in which two cowboys on horseback run with a bull before attempting to flip it over by pulling on its tail - while tying to pursue his dream of becoming a fashion designer in his spare time. Relationships and what could be seen as traditional gender roles ripple as fluidly as the muscles on a bull's back, as Mascaro immerses us in Iremar's world. In his off-hours, he hangs out with his colleague Galega (Maeve Jinkings), a flint-edged truck driver, who can more than hold her own with the men, and her young sassy daughter Cacá (Aline Santana), with Mascaro again testing the boundaries of audience expectation by making Iremar the far more nurturing of the two. At night, Galega is scene as erotic dancer, pushing the boundaries even further by wearing a horse's head mask.

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Sexuality becomes the director's plaything, with situations that seem ripe for carnality subverted. An early scene in which Iremar and Galega are getting up close and personal in the truck, for example, initially appears to be a moment of elaborate foreplay but, in fact, he is merely measuring her up for his latest fashion creation. Elsewhere, things not immediately associated with eroticism - such as a man on horseback - become charged with possibility.

Mascaro is completely in control of his material, whether he is sinking into the documentary vibe of the back and forth chatter between Cacá and Mascaro, bringing out the humour in a scene in which Iremar and his pal Zé (Carlos Pessoa) try a spot of horse semen theft or relishing the opportunity to showcase his impressionistic skills in striking interludes, every frame of it captured beautifully by cinematographer Diego García.

It's almost impossible not to draw parallels between the division of the sexes and the horses and bulls that are ever-present through the film. The bulls are there to be taken down and worked with, while the horses are put on a pedestal - complete with the sort of makeover that would make Katie Price proud. Mascaro isn't interested in plot but in the character traits we all possess that lead us to drive our lives forward, even using a men's porn magazine to show the literal and odd intersection of the very different aspirations of Cacá, Zé and Iremar. The result is intense and intensely emotional, and sees Mascaro use the weight of our expectations to flip them as easily as the cowboys take down a bull.

Reviewed on: 17 Mar 2016
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Neon Bull packshot
Story of a bull handler who dreams of a career in the world of fashion.

Director: Gabriel Mascaro

Writer: Gabriel Mascaro

Starring: Juliano Cazarré, Maeve Jinkings, Vinícius de Oliveira, Alyne Santana, Josinaldo Alves, Carlos Pessoa, Samya De Lavor

Year: 2015

Runtime: 101 minutes

Country: Brazil, Uruguay, Netherlands

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