The Moment of Truth
Posted by martinteller on August 10, 2012
Miguel Romero (Miguel “Miguelin” Mateo) is a young man who leaves his father’s tiny farm for Barcelona, with big city dreams of striking it rich. The reality is that opportunities are scarce, and hard labor with low pay is all that awaits him. That is, until he discovers a basement school for toreros and finds his true calling, and his ticket from rags to riches. But what a risky ticket it is.
This has been called the greatest film about bullfighting. I’m in no position to argue. I would say Almodovar’s Matador is a better film, but it’s not really about bullfighting, and Eisenstein’s Que Viva Mexico! isn’t that special. I can’t think of any others I’ve seen. Rosi certainly does make the sport (can you call it a “sport”?) exciting and even beautiful. Mateo was one of Spain’s top-ranked toreadors and does all the fights himself. The impressive use of long lenses makes it clear that he utilizes no stunt doubles. There is an elegance and obvious skill to what he does. He’s also a handsome fella, and quite charismatic for an amateur actor.
But make no bones about it, this is not an easy film to watch. Rosi doesn’t shy away from the gore and cruelty of the fights, and it can be mighty disturbing. The only indication that perhaps he doesn’t entirely condone this activity is his unflinching willingness to show the bloodletting and suffering involved. He’s also distant and ambiguous about any political reading, but it suggests to me that the only way for a young citizen of Franco’s Spain to make a name for himself is to enter a world of barbaric violence and exploitation, where you’re always one mistake from being yesterday’s news… or tomorrow’s funeral.
This was a compelling film that went by remarkably fast. It left me feeling conflicted about the world of bullfighting. I am still repulsed by its medieval, inhumane brutality, but I also have a greater appreciation for the nuances and excitement of it. Rating: Good (75)