GORED: Compelling, But Lacking In Passion
Aside from sports bloopers, a few Hemingway novels and stock footage I don't know much about bullfighting. Common sense dictates that provoking a bull to charge you to stab it going to be dangerous, and there's bound to be a daredevil mentality to being a matador. With that rudimentary knowledge, it felt like Gored would provide some insight into bullfighting,
Aside from sports bloopers, a few Hemingway novels and stock footage I don’t know much about bullfighting. Common sense dictates that provoking a bull to charge you to stab it going to be dangerous, and there’s bound to be a daredevil mentality to being a matador. With that rudimentary knowledge, it felt like Gored would provide some insight into bullfighting, the cultural identity of matadors, and the passion of its subject.
The Sport and the Subject
Gored looked like it would clarify, or shine a light into this. It is a documentary by Ido Mizrahy on the famed bullfighter Antonio Barrera. Barrera is a somewhat infamous bullfighter, since he has the reputation as the most gored matador in history. Now if this means he’s the best bullfighter, or the worst bullfighter isn’t clarified, to my uneducated mind either line of reasoning makes sense. I think it means that Barrera is the most entertaining bullfighter, because he’s more likely to injured, kind of like Evil Knievel was more fun to watch than Robbie Knievel because he was more liable to hurt himself, right?
Director Izo Mizahry assembles an economical and partially compelling documentary about one of the most divisive sports in practice. The obligatory elephant in the room is the nature of the activity: yes, bullfighting is cruel, some admire its daring nature and cultural relevance while others object to the barbarism. Although both schools of thought are valid, that’s not the subject of the documentary; however, protesters do appear, albeit briefly.
The core of Gored followed Barrera on his way to what would be his final showdown; talking heads consist mainly of his wife, whose concern for her husband obviously stems from the fact that he’s cheated death countless times, and on-site doctors who have stitched, sewn, and bandaged the famed matador up countless times.
Having said that, the casual viewer should take note that Gored features some graphic images of its subject getting tossed around and literally “gored” (hows that for an inspired title?) by bulls in the ring.
A lack of passion for a passionate subject
Documentaries for the most part are supposed to inform its viewer on the subject. Some candid interviews with Barrera’s wife humanizes the stakes at hand, but Barrera’s insights reveal a palatable sense of passion that I had expected from a documentary about such a dangerous and long-standing tradition. Barrera shows no hesitation or qualms with his reputation as a matador, revealing his unhealthy obsession and relationship with bullfighting; he boldly proclaims that “I had lost respect for death.”
Barrera goes on to say that “I’ve never had a relationship, even with a woman, as intimate as the one I have with a bull.” which at the time felt like amorous hyperbole but when you see Antonio getting trampled and tossed around like a rag-doll only to re-enter the ring and ripping open his shirt to bait the bull, it became evident that Barrera’s zealousness was anything but counterfeit.
It was that kind of reckless passion I found compelling, and that ardent recklessness that would explain, or, at least, peel back some layers to his dangerous obsession. However, the material around the most compelling moments of Gored (arena footage, interviews) felt pallid and uninspired.
Ido Mizrahy doesn’t rely so much on interviews and talking heads; it just seems like there’s a shortage of gravitas considering the life and death stakes should have provided enough pull to maintain a consistently fascinating documentary. I was left wanting more. A life or death scenario, a compelling and controversial subject, and the obsession of a dangerous protagonist should all add up to all consuming chronicle, but Gored didn’t communicate the passion of its subject or the profession. A compelling document it was, but the ingredients provided should have been an engrossing one. There’s a scene featuring Barrera and his driver getting lost on the way to their show, sort of funny in an unintentionally cathartic way, in hindsight.
Less is more, but not in this case
Gored is interesting, but it stays there, it feels like the focus of the film was too specific, with a topic that’s pretty broad with multiple variables that merit exploration. Is Barrera the best matador in the world because he’s been gored more than any other, or is he the worst bullfighter whose just a careless showman for the same reasons? Ironically, I’m still asking that question.
Gored is occasionally compelling but a surprisingly uninvolving documentary, the title makes it seem like it’s in the dated Mondo Cane territory, and the subject somewhat questionable; if someone told me about a famous moose hunter who had been trampled a record number of times my reaction might not be so sympathetic.
[highlighted_p boxed=”false” center=”false”]Does Barrera sound like a passionate sportsman, or a reckless daredevil? Does he merit a documentary?
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