Of winged steeds and other dreams. Three glances on Boi Neon

Of winged steeds and other dreams. In regards to Boi Neon

Yelsy Hernández Zamora

Brazil's northeastern landscape. Dust, cattle; the dormant erotism of the daily bus ride and the rodeo. Such is the essence of Boi Neon (2015), the multi- awarded Brazilian film by the director Gabriel Mascaro, where a group of herders take their oxen from one town to another to present the traditional show known as "vaquejada," while sharing every instant of their humble existence as a family. From a perspective devoid of rigidness, the spectator delves into the quotidian universe of the characters and is surprised by the complexity of their construction. Each one drags dreams and impossibilities, and the capacity to sublimate the frustration or desire is symbolically translated into the ox-horse duality. The horse is a synonym of fantasies and dreams, those which - as Galega expresses to her daughter-, can never be had. Hence, the small Cacá who steps into her adolescence and lives obsessed with the idea of having an animal, perhaps as a substitute of the unknown father's figure. In the scenes of her erotic dance in front of the rodeo cowboys, Galega imitates a horse's trot, disguises behind a mask and conceals in this way, her own solitude. Iremar strokes a mare with immense tenderness, as he does with the body of a woman in a clothes' factory which summarizes his taylor's aspirations. The artificial lightning of those fragments supports the oneiric and poetic character of the dreams, and the editing succeeds in opposing the labouring images with those of the cattle, so that for every ephimeral instant of plenitude, follows the reality of ordinary life condensed in the clumsy figure of the ox.

On the other hand, the evident intention of the director to break with the conventional logic of the stereotypes, crosses the way of presenting the apparent contrast between genre and expectations. Thereby, a herder like Iremar or Junior with all their roughness can also be passionate about sewing or hairdressing, and a young and sensual woman like Galega, can drive and fix a truck, without this being determinant of their sexual orientation. In another level, the predictable remains equally subverted in the diaphanous relationship of the man with his own body, and between the latter and the camera.

The boldness with which the naked bodies are exposed in their usual grooming or in the sex scenes without taboos, prints on the images a mark of ordinariness seldom achieved, and seduces the spectator with a certain puzzlement that will soon transform into proximity.

The outstanding performances, as well as the clean-cut soundtrack and scenography, reinforce the naturalistic character of the film. It is without a doubt, a palpitating and sincere film that we cannot afford to miss.

Neon Bull: emotional duality

Julio César Durán

Diverse principles are confronted in Gabriel Mascaro's second fiction film. After being awarded with the Special Mention at the Locarno Film Festival, among other awards for his Vientos de Agosto (2014), he delivers an apparently simple story, Buey neón (2015), where a young and rough cowboy who works in the famous “Vaquejadas” of the Brazilian northeast, dreams of becoming a fashion designer amid his rural life. Our protagonist, Iremar, manages the cows for this sort of rodeo -that blends a spectacle spirit but also a ritual-, together with a peculiar "family" formed by the small Cacá, Galega her mother, the picturesque Ze and another cowboy named Mario. The whole group represents dualities in front of the camera, all of which are in reality more a dance than a battle (represented of course, by an oneiric recurrent shot), where apparent opposites and contradictions coexist, parsimoniously flow and function in a contemporary Brazil. A Brazil whose countryside facet, develops with self rhythm and in different ways to the city that in contrast to what we observe here, classifies everything determinately.

Mascaro preserves a naturalistic eye, perhaps due to his previous four documentary works; with it, he captures the day to day of this mob that goes from place to place in the "vaquejadas" in a truck with the oxen that participate in them. The characters constructed by the filmmaker and the screenwriter, are always matched to the big animals they manage. These demonstrate the most organic characteristics of the film and the less mechanical, and are faithfully repeated by Iremar and company.

The herders live similarly to one of their main shows. The neon ox is precisely that natural animal impulse that is filtrated with sophistication. Iremar himself is the coexistence of apparent contradictions; a life in the wild and his self-taught designs, are two dissimilar worlds that uncover and find their place in front of Diego García's camera (Fogo, 2012, Cementerio de esplendor, 2015).

Neon Bull is a film about the body, the everyday life without prudish filters, where everything is natural, from sex in a textile workshop or in the middle of the cattle, passing through the public baths, to actions as ordinary as the need to urinate in the open air. The protagonist is a mixture of thick skin with fluorescent paint, a cowboy among the shit and the soil, and has a different sensibility that is superficially seen as a paradox but without any conflict, it is there where the beauty of the work resides and the place where the spectator remains trapped.

As we can see, those live forms so natural in the Brazilian rural context, are exposed, they open to the public. With the rhythm of a sensuous dance, the characters also display, that is, they are not only exhibiting a reality or scenery with all its details, but it is they, themselves; Iremar, Cacá and the rest of the mob who reveal to us in the screen.

The accomplishment of a long feature of this kind, as explicit as it may be, is to discover a present from a distinctly emotional anthropology, dedicated to get lost between the northeast of Brazil that is no longer completely the Sertão of Glauber Rocha, that is changing and modifying, and that currently is also of neon lights. Without a linear plot from "A" to "B", Gabriel Mascaro offers a paradoxical account, a dissection whose simplicity -without too complex artifices-, shapes for us a ground of multiple shades.

Neon Bull: bodies in the chiaroscuro

Yoshua Oviedo Ugalde

The most recent fiction film by Gabriel Mascaro, Neon Bull (2015), is an allegory of the power of image and light in film; an exercise on the observation of some locals from Pernambuco, in the northeast of Brazil, who live in contrast with their desires and are delimited by the physical space.

With subtle travellings, the camera moves between the characters, be they human or animal. The use of the long take allows the perception of both in the same context; inquiring and penetrating in their daily lives.

Masacro not only shows the physical environment, but also explores the psychological departing from a new perspective on genre: Iremar (Juliano Cazarré) is a cowboy who dreams of tailoring clothes; Junios (Vinícius de Oliveira) is a strong man concerned with his physical aspect, Galega (Maeve Jinkings) drives her truck and is in charge of the business, and Cacá (Alyne Santana) is a day dreaming girl in the middle of this wild world.

By means of an elaborate composition, Diego García (photography director) alongside Mascaro, discover bodies in the darkness, through several layers that organically overlap and position the camera at certain distance from the characters without losing sight of their context.

The constant rising dust during the day, finds its counterpart in the colorful nocturnal scenes in which Galega, with a horse's head, dances for an audience that vanishes in the distance; the expressiveness of the color from neon tones, creates a fantastic effect. Further on, the neon shade will be seen on the bodies of the animals.

The color and realistic light of the exterior scenes contrast with the oneiric and fantastic character of the interior ones; in those two worlds, animals and humans live their personal confinement, their labyrinthian nooks.

The characters will end up disposing of their clothes, naked in a chiaroscuro that shows the two worlds in which they live: Galega and Junior, under the moonlight together with some oxen, while Iremar and Geise (Samya De Lavor) will embrace their bodies in a textile factory surrounded by machines. That is the contemporary Brazil, with its contradictions and its people, their dreams and their reality.