Ido Mizhary’s GORED provokes an innate morbidity. We’re told that Antonio Barrera is not the most graceful of bullfighters. He’s been gored a staggering 23 times. The documentary is framed by Barrera’s final bullfight before retirement. Given all the cliches about death during a last job, it’s unclear if he’ll make it out unscathed.
We’re also told that bullfighting at its best is like a dance. (If you can get past the animal cruelty and view this practice anthropologically, it makes sense on a metaphorical level.) Archival footage of famous Spanish matadors show off the grace that crowds expect. Slow movements, pure anticipation, no perspiration, and the illusion that the bull is a willing accomplice in its own demise. The struggle between man and nature is presented as a hypermasculine tango.
If you don’t have grace as a bullfighter, you can at least be recklessly brave, which is what makes Barrera popular in Mexico. (Is this the bullfighter’s version of being big in Japan?) There are lessons in Barrera’s approach that go beyond bullfighting, and it applies to various artistic endeavors. Maybe there’s a certain method that joins physical exertion and creative endeavors, or a common disposition that athletes and creatives sometimes share. Or maybe it’s just the way that people define themselves and their philosophy of life by the work they do and the things they create, and the exterior form is a way of understanding the interior life.