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Arts & Culture

The Matador


Bullfighting has been celebrated in books such as Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises . But it also has its critics. The film definitely celebrates El Fandi's artistry in the ring and shows us the beauty of the sport. But it doesn't ignore the brutality of the sport or the critics who see bullfighting as glorified animal torture. There's footage of protesters outside the bullrings and people harassing Fandila for participating in what they see as a barbaric ritual. Filmmakers Stephen Higgins and Nina Gilden Seavey try to offer a balance of perspectives but they could have given a little more historical and cultural context to help us understand why the sport persists and the particualr appeal it has for Spaniards.

The Matador adored (City Lights)

The film tries to be well-rounded in its portrait of both the sport and of Fandila. But the filmmakers are definitely more fascinated by Fandila's insider's view of bullfighting. The film tries to capture what it is that drives Fandila to pursue this career path. We see pictures and movies of him as a little boy already striking a matador's pose and being driven by a passion to enter the bullring. He speaks of the bulls as noble opponents and how each one is different. One observer compares meeting the bulls with meeting a woman. Fandila and his fans sees the artistry, romance and beauty of the sport. But when the dead bulls are being dragged out of the ring it's hard to see any of the romance or poetry. Director Stephen Higgins and co-director Nina Gilden Seavey do a good job of bringing us into this world of bullfighting and presenting an insider's perspective. Yet they also place that point of view in a larger context


The Matador (unrated and in Spanish with English subtitles) stirred very mixed feelings for me. There is a real beauty to the dance these matadors engage in with the bulls but it's also a cruel sport "on the edge of rationality," and you cannot ignore that. It's a modern day version of gladiators and that's not to everyone's taste.

Companion viewing: The Sun Also Rises, Blood and Sand, Talk to Her