Posted by: greercn | March 21, 2013

Bullhead

Once in a very long time, I get to see a movie that is so powerful, original and extraordinary that scenes from it will stay with me forever.

“Bullhead” rivets your attention from the first scenes. It looks and feels different from any other film. It creates its own world. And it features a performance by Matthias Schoenaerts (“Rust and Bone”) that is physical, wild and perfect.

The original Flemish title was “Rundskop”, which means “ox” head instead of “bull”. Oxen are castrated and bulls aren’t.

The locations shift around Belgium and it struck me that the action started near where my mother was born, moved to where she grew up then went to where my grandmother lived when I was growing up. This made it just a little weird to watch, visually. You are unlikely to share this small issue I had.

Belgium is divided into French and Flemish language groups. There is tension between the groups. It’s a very complex and political situation.

Flemish – a relative of Dutch – and Belgian French are the two languages used, but the English subtitles are really very good.

Jacky (Schoenaerts) is a cattle farmer who is convinced to do a deal to get growth hormones for his animals.  He is not happy about the people he is dealing with.

There is a lot of political stuff, farming information and crime. Most of all, it’s a terrific story and beautifully told.

While the plots thicken, Jacky is stalking a young woman, Lucia, played with unearthly brilliance by Jeanne Dandoy.

Other outstanding acting mentions should go to Barbara Sarafian, Tibo Vandenborre and Robin Valvekens (young Jacky). Valvekens is a fine young actor with a great future.

Everyone in the ensemble is terrific and I loved a quirky set of performances by a crooked garage-owning team. They are played by Erico Salamone and Phillippe Grand’Henry.

“Bullhead” was nominated for the Oscar last year, when “A Separation” won and I prefer “Bullhead” but, as yet, nobody has suggested that this Oscar should be mine to give.

Director and writer Michael R Roskam has crafted a sound, look and feel that made everyone at the Discover Tuesdays showing at Stratford East Picturehouse gasp at times. It’s the most astonishing movie I have seen this year.

It’s a grand Belgian form of Greek tragedy about desire, destiny and decision. If you love film, you must see “Bullhead”.

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