Not knowing what ‘BULA‘ was about, I went in with the lowest of expectations. First feature films can be very hit-or-miss, yet Boris Baum knew exactly how to pull me in and keep me entertained. His directorial effort is nothing short of awe-inspiring, delivering a film that is so extradimensional, yet stays grounded in reality, because of how he captures human interactions with a lens that blurs the lines between two opposite worlds.

Marcelo (Matthieu Delaunay), 17, lives confined to his teenage bedroom. So far, his days have been divided between his scientific research, his black metal solo band and his mother. One day, however, two events shake up his daily life: his failure on his final exam and the mysterious death of his father, Ziad, a famous anthropologist in Brazil. Determined to investigate his disappearance, he and his uncle embark on an adventure between electrifying cities and the Amazon.

The cast is phenomenal. Even though Delaunay plays a psychologically disturbed teenager who investigates the disappearance of his father, it’s the way he nuances the actions of his behaviour without going over the top. Xavier Gallais, who plays Marcelo’s uncle Antoine, does go there, and does it in such a deranged way, it’s delightful to witness the shenanigans the two get into, bumping into the most peculiar characters in the streets of a major city in Brazil.

Not only does Baum capture the authenticity of these streets in the most realistic way possible, his camera makes the ugliness of poverty and garbage scattered in the streets look like an otherworldly exploration of our very own planet. Different media blend well, where modern western music and Indigenous instruments make place for one another, without ever feeling out of place. There’s moments in which the film cuts to archival footage that hint at Ziad’s activities in his camp of misfits, where possibly hypnotic psychology was used to manipulate one’s full potential, while constantly being reminded “they don’t make the revolution, they rehearse it“, making it all sound a bit cult-ish.

What’s most remarkable about this one-of-a-kind artistic vision is how hypnotising it is on the viewer. Baum never apologizes for his extraordinary and often completely bonkers scenarios, taking it up a notch one scene at a time before coming to a rather soft final act that changes the dynamic of our two protagonists. Mathieu Gauriat‘s score is just as wild as the actions taking place on screen, fully complementing each other until the very end, never missing a beat.

BULA goes full force ahead from the moment it kicks into gear, never losing steam, joining an eccentric league of dark comedy knockouts. If a hippie-detecting chicken after a bad trip in some dodgy abandoned building doesn’t have you in stitches, then I don’t know what will. Brilliant.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Review – ‘BULA’

Reviewed online (screener provided by publicist), December 2, 2020. Rating: PG. Running time: 95 min.

PRODUCTION: A Les Films de la Récré, Frontera Filmes production. Producers: Boris Baum.

CREW: Director: Boris Baum. Screenplay: Boris Baum, Sébastien Tixador. Editors: Nina Haditalab, Tuong Vi Nguyen-Lon. Cinematography: Boris Baum, Clemence Thurninger, Mauricio Padilha. Score: Mathieu Gauriat.

WITH: Matthieu Delaunay, Xavier Gallais, Zoé Adjani, Lula Cotton-Frapier, Éric Chantelauze and Stéphane Bissot.

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