What a strange, strange movie this is. Neon Bull is set, like the other Brazilian movie I watched recently, Aquarius, in the Northeastern state of Pernambuco. And like that movie it is a meandering, understated story – more a character study than a traditional narrative. It offers a documentary-like slice of life view on an outrageously sexy rodeo worker, his friend (or sister or ex-girlfriend?) played by my new favourite actress, Maeve Jinkings, and her pre-teen daughter.
The film doesn’t play by the usual rules of independent cinema. Although the story centres around an itinerant group of cowboys and cowgirls in the parched sertao badlands of the Northeast, don’t expect poverty porn. The film downplays the characters’ lack of economic prosperity to show a (generally) happy family (of sorts) striving gently for their own little dreams – with occasional flashes of surrealist imagery. Maeve Jinkings dances in a strip club in a horse costume and argues with her stroppy daughter while sweet (and very heterosexual) cowboy Juliano Cezarre dreams of becoming a fashion designer. This is interspersed with many scenes of life on the farm, some dreamy interludes and a pretty noteworthy sex scene.
I’m really not sure what to make of Neon Bull. While watching it, I veered towards being bored several times – as well as confused – but afterwards it has lingered in my mind…and star Juliano Cezarre exudes cinematic pheromones in every scene. He is simply sexy, even eclipsing Maeve Jinkings, the wonderfully expressive actress I had originally wanted to see, and star of both Aquarius and Neighbouring Sounds (below).
Here Maeve talks (in Portuguese only) about her role in Neighbouring Sounds: