GORED

GORED ★★½

GORED is a difficult film to assign a star rating to, in some respects. I am not a fan of bullfighting, to put it mildly, and cruelty against animals on film is something that makes me cringe. Ergo, a documentary about a famous bullfighter that features numerous scenes in the ring of the fighter and/or the bull being wounded and bleeding out is something that's genuinely unpleasant for me to watch. At the same time, despite my own antipathy, I'm very curious as to the appeal of bullfighting and the loyalty it's commended among some (probably BECAUSE it seems so alien to me). In that sense, the documentary's interesting, if not authoritative: following a bullfighter named Antonio Barerra who's retiring after reaching the record for being gored most often (23 times!) the film starts with his final match in 2012, circles back to show how he got there, and then follows him into retirement, accompanied by narration from him and his family.

The subtitle of the film is A LOVE STORY, and while that might look glib on the poster, it becomes clear when you're watching that, for Barerra or other matadors, there isn't any really a cogent explanation as to why bullfighting has the hold it does on their psyche--it's more emotional than logical, and you can genuinely see that far-away look in Barerra's eyes, when he talks about being ready to die at any moment and how it will lessen his own quality of life to give that up. There's a genuinely stunning sequence in here during a match in Mexico where he gets laid out, wakes up on the hospital bed, pulls out the tubes applied to him, and rushes back to the ring to finish the match and kill the bull. There is something existential for the fighter perhaps, more than the audience, that it IS possible to buy into here, maybe. Towards the end of the film, when protesters calling for the abolition of bullfighting show up, it's genuinely jarring, because you have kind of slipped into the worldview of Barerra and other matadors, who seem to be taking death as a given and are preoccupied with the idea of a Good one. It's a temporary buy-in, and I don't believe it lasted much past the closing credits, but I think, for all my difficulty watching it, it was valuable to try and see what others got out of a practice that I can't really process as anything other than needlessly cruel.

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