DVD Review: ‘The Moment Of Truth’ [The Criterion Collection]

The Moment Of Truth
DVD | Blu-ray
Directed by Francisco Rosi
Starring Miguel Mateo
The Criterion Collection
Release date: January 24, 2012

Some of the best things come in the smallest of packages. And this goes for most things ranging from a present given on a birthday or a new DVD release.

Continuing in Criterion’s recent run of releasing DVD and Blu-ray packages with few to no special features for $10 less than their normal counterparts, the company has given the world a cavalcade of underseen masterpieces from some of cinema’s greatest artists. Be it Antonioni’s Identification Of Woman, or last month’s release of The Moment Of Truth from auteur Francesco Rosi, Criterion may have shocked fans with these feature-free releases, but they’ve also given us wonderful films. And as mentioned above, Truth is absolutely no different.

Following the story of a bullfighter as he rises and subsequently falls within the world of this intense and intensely violent past time, the film stars real-life legend Miguel Mateo, and tosses the viewer directly into the middle of what may be the single most brutal and violent sport known to man. A devastating look into the very idea of violence and the use of violence as sport, Moment Of Truth oozes realism, making the title a rather telling inquiry into what the film and director Francesco Rosi were seemingly hell bent on giving its audience.

The film’s biggest star is obviously Rosi. Never allowing his frame to waver from what is going on on screen, Rosi is able to embue each and every frame of the film with this distinct sense of truth and reality, something that in a film of this subject matter, is breathtaking. From the viscerally moving goring of a bull, to the first time our lead gets onto the field of play (albeit as a spectator jumping out of his seat), the film features a cavalcade of sequences that are, instead of being highly stylized, are shot with such an assured hand and such an assured sense of realism that they are quite stunning.

Mateo is fantastic here as our lead, Miguel, the torero as he is credited, which should come as little shock. The choreography of each bullfight is utterly gorgeous, with each sequence playing like the cinematic manifestation of the descriptor “dance of death.” Mateo has a great physicality both inside and outside of the arena, and makes this look and feel like the epitome of a neo-realist film. Jose Gomez Sevillano is great here as well as the agent, as are both Pedro Basauri and Linda Christian. For a film drenched in realism, the performances here are oddly enthralling, making this one hell of an experience. Toss in a fantastic score, and you have a film that is both utterly cinematic, whilst also being a piece that features moment after moment of truth.

Supplement wise, this release is, as mentioned as the start, one of Criterion’s smaller releases. Featuring a great transfer, both audio and visual, the only features given here happen to be an interview with Rossi shot in 2004. However, the booklet is really great here, with a fantastic written piece by film critic Peter Matthews. It gives a really great look into the film and is everything that a Criterion booklet hopes and strives to be.

Overall, while this film is definitely not for everyone (those with a passionate affinity for animals will find the fight sequences to be nearly unwatchable), this is exactly the type of film Criterion should be release, at exactly the price point. For a miniscule $20 (DVD) or $30 (Blu-ray), one will get what is a truly underrated gem, and a film unlike any you’ve ever seen prior. Rosi is one of the great filmmakers, and this may very well be one of his greatest pieces. Don’t let the lack of supplements fool you, this is just as special a film as you would hope.

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