“Don José, the only reason I’m a torero is to make money. When I have enough I’ll retire. It’s the only reason I risk getting gored.” – Miguelín
“The Moment of Truth (Il momento della verità), from director Francesco Rosi, is a visceral plunge into the life of a famous torero—played by real-life bullfighting legend Miguel Mateo, known as Miguelín. Charting his rise and fall with a single-minded focus on the bloody business at hand, the film is at once gritty and operatic, placing the viewer right in the thick of the ring’s action, as close to death as possible. Like all of the great Italian truth seeker’s films, this is not just an electrifying drama but also a profound and moving inquiry into a violent world—and it’s perhaps the greatest bullfighting movie ever made.” – The Criterion Collection
1. This film is comprised of a series of “moments of truth” as a matter of fact. And none is more important than what is depicted above. Here Miguelín takes a leap of faith, literally. Coming from such humble beginnings, he knows he must try any way he can to get attention. Having received some training from faded legend, Pedrucho (and exhibiting some innate talent), Miguelín feels he must take the next step. He ultimately decides to jump into the stadium, mid-bullfight and prove himself. This act comes to define Miguelín as a character. This moment shows his deep-rooted confidence in himself, and develops him as the bold character we all wish we were a little more like. He was tired of being on track to become a small town farmer, dreamed big, and committed to seeing it through. The third step in this progression is what sets him apart from most people; the bravery to try.
2. Here we see a small fraction of the crowd that gathers to watch the spectacle of torero v. bull. And while it is the fortune that initially draws Miguelín to the profession, fame (as we have always been taught) can be just as powerful a drug. The film often depicts the reactions of the crowd up close, in a voyeuristic and documentary fashion. Laughing, pointing, and cheering seem to contradict the carnage that occurs in the stadium when viewed in our modern, PETA-inspired, animal rights perspective. And while I do not necessarily condone the violence, it cannot be denied that bullfighting has played an important role in the culture of Spain for centuries. The event is shown not unlike the gladiator battles of yore; where men live and die to defend their honor.
3. This is what the title of the film most directly references. Having lulled the bull into confusion through a magnificent ballet with the red cloth (known as the muleta), the torero sizes him up and draws his sword. As he sets his aim, and looks into the bull’s eyes, the moment of truth commences. This is the moment which determines the fate of both bull and man. Francesco Rosi does a great job of showing the connection that is felt between Miguelín and the bulls he fights. There is almost an unspoken, unexplainable respect that manifests itself in Miguelín’s face as he rises to his toes before driving the sword through the bull. We are afforded close to a dozen opportunities to experience this moment, which makes the film a truly “visceral plunge.”
Bottom Line: Bullfighting might be a fading tradition as it continues to be outlawed in various areas, but The Moment of Truth captures the sport at its greatest. Rosi crafts for us a film which shows the beauty and grace that belies the grotesque imagery. All of the fights and gore are real (no stunt doubles, no dummies, and no CGI!); it’s unlikely we’ll every see anything like it again. It is certainly not a movie for the faint of heart (or stomach), but it reveals human nature in its most raw and unfiltered form. It should also be noted that while filmed entirely in Spain, the film is in Italian. This may seem at first strange until we consider that we make movies in other countries all the time and have all the characters speak English! Somewhere deep down, I wish I was more like Miguelín, but I can honestly say I won’t be staring a raging bull in the eyes anytime soon (at least not until I’ve had my peanut butter and jelly).
Reel Rating: 6.7
Also, I would like to note that I am changing the reviews to 3-frames as you can see. This format will evolve as I work on it more and more, but I think this is a better place to be. And in case you were wondering, shaving a movie to 3 frames is VERY hard!