Neon Bull

Brazil’s revolutionary new era of cinema continues with Neon Bull, an immersive, sensuous art-house experience set in the dusty barren landscapes of north eastern Brazil. 

It’s an intimate portrait of life and livestock in the remotest regions of Brazil among a small group of cattle wranglers, both men and women, working behind the scenes and traveling from town to town, taking care of the bulls that are used in the popular Rodeo shows known as Vaquejada.

Director Gabriel Mascaro skillfully attempts to break stereotypes with his cowboy characters by reversing traditional gender roles in this parched no man’s land of stark beauty and emptiness. 

Iremar (Juliano Cazarré) is not what he seems on the outside. Beneath his macho cowboy exterior is a sensitive artistic soul who aspires to become a fashion designer. It’s not what you would expect from a cow hand. He artfully draws his provocative creations on the nude female bodies of porn magazines and sews sexy dance costumes for his female colleague Galega (Maeve Jinkings), who drives the truck that transports the cattle and performs as an exotic dancer for the rodeo sideshow in late night bars of the various towns they visit.

Iremar is actually very good at his job and also takes his designer hobby very seriously. He’s the resident fashion connoisseur, so when a traveling sales lady comes around selling cologne, they immediately strike up a friendship with their common interest and ambitions. Their dreams are as diverse as their day-to-day existence is mundane.

The intimately filmed erotic visual style effectively immerses us in the lives of these out-of-place characters as they go about their routine, giving us a sense of being part of a remote unseen world. It’s as if the camera is invisible and we are just observing life as it happens from the shadows and the makeshift tents.

With men and livestock living in close quarters like Bedouins and their camels wandering through the desert, our human instincts are shown to be closer to animals than we would like to admit.

This small cattle community are out-casts who have fallen outside the margins of society; wanderers living in isolation who dream of becoming famous one day. There isn’t much of a story to speak of and the film makes no judgements or explanations, it simply spends a short time passing through the lives of these roaming rodeo roadies. 

Neon Bull is a fascinating transient experience that mirrors the lifestyle of the characters it follows on their journey through an isolated alien frontier world, giving us a new perspective on the lives and relationships of the men and women living on the edge of civilization.

Brazilian cinema is always exciting to watch and full of creativity and powerful perspectives. Like other recent contemporary avant-garde films from Brazil, Neighboring Sounds (2012), Brazilian Western (2013) and The Second Mother (2015), Neon Bull is an artful insightful film that can be enjoyed on many levels; visually, sensually and culturally.


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