You Alone

Like the sport of bullfighting that is its subject, Teo Escamilla's You Alone is primitive, mawkish, and perversely beautiful. In a Spanish bullfighting school a motley group of 6- to 13-year-olds learn the morbid art of the matador. The school star, Jose Miguel, is hassled by his former-bullfighter dad, but finally preens and skewers his way to stardom. The generation conflict theme is a bit stale and gratuitous and the far more interesting minor characters are lost to Escamilla's butterfingered editing and narrative incompetence. Somehow, though, the hodgepodge of staged dialogue and cinema verite opens glimpses into a world that is alien, alluring, and vaguely obscene. The images are solemnly surrealistic: a ten-year-old with a pink cape is gored in the eye by a bull; a bull baited through a village street nonchalantly attacks a stray dog, a novice toreador, and a '57 DeSoto loaded with drunks. Most unsettling is a sequence in which a group of students sneaks off at dawn to fight a real bull. Inspired by a passage in a book, they strip and confront the animal naked. The black shadow of the bull in the mist, the carmine whirls of the cape, and the elegant arcs of the pale, vain, and vulnerable bodies compose an uneasy poem that is repellent and sublime. Much of what Escamilla attempts is confused, and much of what he makes clear is distasteful. But the raw beauty of bullfighting pervades his movie, a queasy mix of narcissism and death.

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