Torero, 1956

Refining the theme of documented reality and reconstructed history introduced in his earlier film, Moroccan Romance, Carlos Velo’s reflective and ecstatic Torero is equally an autobiography on charismatic Mexican bullfighter, Luis Procuna, and an unvarnished examination of bullfighting culture. Presented as an extended interior monologue as an anxious Procuna prepares to return to the ring after a prolonged absence caused by injury, as well as the unexpected death of cerebral, renowned Spanish bullfighter and admired contemporary, Manolete, the film seamlessly interweaves past and present, archival footage and re-enactment. Chronicling Procuna’s rise from abject poverty (underscoring the correlation between bullfighting and escapism that also runs through Llorenç Soler’s 52 Sundays), makeshift training, inauspicious debut, and personal and professional milestones, Velo incisively captures the ambivalent, often contradictory nature of the collective spectacle, where the relationship between the bullfighter and the audience proves to be as fickle and mercurial as the bulls themselves. Velo illustrates this ephemerality through two near real-time sequences that figuratively bookend Procuna’s career – first, as a third-billed performer who emerges from the shadows after injuries cut short the main attraction, then subsequently, as a famous bullfighter nearing the end of his career who is goaded into returning to the ring, only to be jeered when his performance proves to be cautious. Juxtaposed against images of Procuna’s humble aspirations – his childhood home, his mother’s memorial, his loving family – Velo presents as thoughtful allegory for the fragile, often arbitrary delineation between humanity and mythology, where transcendence, like truth, lies in the inconstant eye of the beholder.

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