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Jallikattu

(India): I watched this film with no expectations, and I have to say it was one of the most thought-provoking, interesting, and surprising (in a great way) films I have seen this year. It is the kind of film I am attracted to – creative and unique in its vision and storytelling and one whose premise initially seems like it cannot work but executes brilliantly. It opens with a montage of men who live in the village; we are introduced to some of the key characters, quick glimpses of their faces and activities during a typical day. After a brief context setting, a bull that is set to be slaughtered escapes and goes on the loose. What transpires for the next 60 minutes or so is hyperkinetic and dizzying; men, and more of them as the film progresses, turning out to chase down and kill the bull, with frequent sidebars to the stories of the men and their interactions with the women in the village and with each other. The “bull in the china shop” is more than just a metaphor here; not only does it inflict physical damage, but it releases a maelstrom of hypermasculine behavior and releases interpersonal anger and animosities among the villagers. The film is beautiful to look at and has frequent beautiful cinematographic moments. I found many parts of it to be extremely funny, starting with the bull who takes on an almost supernatural mystique. The music – well, it is just really weird, but I loved it, as it fits so perfectly the subtext of the film. The tone switches between haunting, as though you are in a horror film, to primal, reflecting the primal masculinity that continues to build. Through it all, the film really lays bare toxic masculinity and questions its core purpose in contemporary society.  The ending was about as unusual and perfect as one could want (I had to watch it three times to grasp it). Big thumbs up from me; I loved the film- it was a great experience. I thought that there were several side stories that seemed distracting, but part of that could be my lack of deep understanding of Indian culture. This could have been about 15 minutes shorter and been perfect. (2019; 4.5 Stars).

About Gary Burkholder

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