Tuesday, January 11, 2022

#2,692. The Moment of Truth (1965) - Spotlight on Italy


Combining documentary-like footage with a rags-to-riches storyline, director Francesco Rosi’s The Moment of Truth is a harsh, sometimes brutal account of bullfighting in 1960s Spain.

It is also damn near a masterpiece.

Wanting more out of life, Miguel Romero (Miguel Mateo), the son of an impoverished farmer, heads to Barcelona in the hopes of landing a good-paying job. Struggling at first to make ends meet, the young man learns that becoming a successful Torero, or bullfighter, could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams.

Luckily, Miguel has a knack for this intensely dangerous sport, and before long is one of its biggest superstars. But will success and his newfound wealth cause him to become careless in the ring?

The Moment of Truth is not an easy film to watch. The opening scene, which features actual footage of Pamplona’s “Running of the Bulls” (staged annually during the San Fermin Festival), contains some disturbing violence, both caused by the bull (who gorges a few participants) and inflicted upon it (the creature’s ultimate demise is as graphic as they come). This is the first of several bloody sequences, and there are moments during the bullfights when you will want to look away (usually towards the end of each match, when the Torero thrusts his final sword into the bull).

It’s more gruesome elements aside, however, The Moment of Truth is a compelling, beautifully shot motion picture, spinning the tale of an ambitious young man who wants to make a better life for himself, and won’t allow anything - even fear - to stand in his way (though confident in his abilities and aggressive when fighting the bulls, Miguel admits at one point that he’s frightened every time he steps into the arena). Despite it being his screen debut, Miguel Mateo delivers a superb performance as the brash, cocky Miguel, and the gorgeous Spanish landscape (Rosi shot the movie on-location) only adds to the film’s authentic flavor.

And yet, The Moment of Truth is still a hard movie to recommend; yes, I think it is an extraordinary motion picture, perhaps one of the finest to emerge from Italy in the 1960s (and in a decade that saw Fellini, Antonioni, Visconti and a slew of others turn out some of their best work, that’s saying something). But as I said above, it’s also very violent, and unflinching in its depiction of bullfighting (many countries - and even a few cities in Spain - have banned the sport in recent years), and it’s because of this that I suggest you tread lightly.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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