Directed by Menno Meyjes, this movie detailed the legendary life of Manolete, the most famous bullfighter in all of Spain in the 20th century. Born in Cordoba on July 4th, 1917, Manuel Laureano Rodriguez Sanchez came from a family of notable bullfighters; however, he was destined to become the most beloved bullfighter of the 1900s. Alas, his story ended in tragedy in his thirtieth year when he was gored to death by a feisty bull. However, he performed and killed with “style and taste,” and was able to execute moves smoothly and demurely. He performed all over Spain (i.e. Seville and Madrid) and even thrilled the bloodthirsty masses in Mexico and other South American countries such as Peru and Venezuela. The movie, up front, did not depict his amazing and almost mythical life with as much gusto and detail as it deserved. Sure, the man playing Manolete (Adrien Brody) was a dead ringer for the real matador, but it annoyed me to no end that he didn’t have a Spanish accent. Brody, although he had the long face and sappy eyes, didn’t even attempt an authentic Spanish drawl! I just couldn’t believe that he was the personification of Spanish machismo and culture when every word stabbed a hole in my brain. The plotline focused more on the romance between Manolete and his lover, Lupe Sino (played by the fiery Penelope Cruz). Cruz, embodying the hooker-turned-fancy mistress, was excellent in the film. Some scenes were overly dramatic, but on the whole, I could see her being the sassy and tempestuous lover of the greatest bullfighter of all time. The Spanish music floating throughout the film was spot on, and the scenery was plausible enough (i.e. the high apartment buildings, cobblestoned roads). The main jab I had with the movie was that it blew up the romance between Manolete and Lupe until it took over the dialogue and tone. His impeccable skill as a matador was pushed aside for scenes featuring the two lovers walking on the beach or saying gushy, meaningless fluff to each other. The only redeeming parts were when Manolete was actually shown in the bullring twirling his cape, watching the bull with concentrating eyes, and dirtying up his glitzy costume with dirt and deep red blood. The slow motion dance of the yellow and red cape enveloping Manolete like a neon mist was the best part of the film. Overall, I would rate this movie a 6 out of 10 because it was redundant, awkward at times, and I could not connect to the main characters fully. I did not feel transported back to Spain in the 1940s; Brody’s American accent pretty much killed all attempts at Spanish authenticity. The goring of Manolete by the bull Islero was also done shoddily; just one shot at the leaning bull and then the shocked face of Manolete. The director did get Manolete’s last words correct though (“I can’t see!”). I make it seem as if I hated the movie, but I did enjoy some parts—black and white clips of the actual Manolete practicing, posing for pictures, or being a badass in the bullring were a nice addition. More of that famous,historical aspect and less of the overpowering romance, and the movie would have been a 7 out of 10. I did enjoy the bullfighting scenes because I attended a bullfight in Spain a few years ago. Although I disliked the blood and the general disadvantage on the bull’s part, I do appreciate that the sport is ingrained into the Spanish culture. So, should you spend the money to rent the movie on iTunes (or see it for free like I did on IMBD)? If you can view it for free, then yes because Manolete is a tragic figure that deserves more attention. If you have to pay for it, then I would probably skip the drama.
Read my article about bullfighting here.