Arruza (1972)

“Carlos enjoyed his life on the ranch with Mari and the children — but it was not enough; it never could be.”

Arruza Poster

Synopsis:
Bored with life in retirement, world-renowned bullfighter Carlos Arruza returns to the ring on horseback as a rejoneador.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
This hard-to-find documentary about famed Mexican bullfighter Carlos Arruza was the picture Budd Boetticher “wanted to make all along” during his lengthy career as a Hollywood director of westerns and other fictional dramas (including two about bullfighting). As Peary notes, since “the film was so important to Boetticher, who certainly didn’t make it with commercial goals in mind, there has been a tendency among his fans to overpraise it”‘; yet the unfortunate truth is that Arruza — shot over a period of seven years, and completed after Arruza’s freak death in a car accident at the age of 46 — is “sadly, a disappointment, lacking the excitement and even the charismatic protagonist that distinguished Boetticher’s fiction films”. Neither Arruza nor anyone else in his circle is interviewed (or at least none of this footage shows up in the finished film), so we never get any real sense of who this iconic man was or even what he sounded like.

Instead, the bulk of the film consists of medium to long shots of Arruza fighting in various arenas (there are noticeably no dramatic close-ups — this was “real life”, after all), as well as footage on his ranch, with shots of his docile wife and cute kids in the background. While it “contains interesting, even poignant moments” (there was real potential here for a story about a man at the top of his game whose ego and love of the sport wouldn’t allow him to quit), non-bullfighting fans will find their patience sorely tested long before the movie is over — and as Peary notes, “if you don’t like bullfighting to begin with, you probably won’t share Boetticher’s respect for Arruza or his ‘art’.” Arruza is primarily of interest to film fanatics these days given what we know about the circumstances surrounding its making: “Boetticher nearly starved (he had an account at a tamale stand), was divorced, spent time in prison, suffered a mental breakdown, and nearly died from a lung ailment”; meanwhile, “most of his crew died”. See the excellent, must-see documentary Budd Boetticher: A Man Can Do That (2005) to learn more about this intriguing director.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Lucien Ballard’s cinematography
    Arruza Cinematography

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended simply for its historical notoriety.

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