If you have read your Hemingway nonfiction, you know aficionados identify with two types of matadors. There are the naturals who just exude elegance in the bullring and there are the pluggers who lack that innate grace, so they display exceptional courage to win over the crowd. Having been on the receiving end of the bulls’ horns twenty-three times, there is little question what kind of bullfighter Antonio Barrera happens to be. For the sake of his wife and family, the gutsy Barrera is finally retiring, but he will first face one last bull in Ido Mizrahy’s Gored (trailer here), which screens during the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival.
Any time a bullfighter steps into the ring, the stakes are high, regardless of the circumstances. Arguably in this case, Barrera has already pushed his luck, about twenty-two times. As a family man, he has a lot to lose. Yet, like any athlete, he wants to go out on his terms. However, anyone expecting the ginned up suspense and bombast of NFL Films productions (“but for Barrera, there would be another day”) will be thrown by Mizrahy’s change-up.
Gored is a surprisingly quiet and contemplative film. At its finest, Gored vividly coveys the importance of tradition, pageantry, and honor for the increasingly beleaguered sport. However, for those who do not follow bullfighting with the ardor of an aficionado, a little less direct cinema observation and a little more context would have strengthened the overall viewing experience. Apparently, a great deal of the work for Spanish bullfighters like Barrera is now found in Mexico. Although still legal in most of Spain, the Catalonian ban is an ominous portent for the sport’s future. It would be enlightening to hear Barrera’s thoughts on the matter, but Mizrahy maintains a scrupulously intimate focus throughout.
Regardless, it is impossible to get bored, or take anything for granted once Barrera steps into the ring. He comes across as an earnest and surprisingly responsible individual, despite all those gorings. He allows Mizrahy in during some remarkably unguarded moments, letting the audience to see all many of his scars and even more of his vulnerabilities.
Without question, Gored gets the nod for best title at Tribeca. While nowhere remotely as sensationalistic as it sounds without context, it still delivers some tense moments. Thanks to Hemingway and Bizet the very notion of bullfighting summons all sort of romantic images, so it is nice to have some of the behind-the-scenes realities and very personal backstories recorded for posterity. Recommended for aficionados, Gored screens again tomorrow (4/19), Tuesday (4/21), and next Saturday (4/25), as part of this year’s Tribeca.