Movie Review: A dead journalist and an urban legend, “El hombre bufalo (The Buffalo Man)” from Mexico

That headline’s dead-on accurate and ridiculously misleading. It makes this indie, arty, obscurant drama from Mexico sound like something it’s not, which is interesting.

Editor and first-time feature writer-director David Torres sets out to tell a simple, sad story about the deadly business of Mexican journalism, how tragedy visits two generations of a family and how the threat of impending injury or death could easily induce one long panic attack for those still practicing it.

And the self-conscious bore puts all his efforts into hiding “story” and “character” and “urban legend as harbinger” beneath the most laborious 68 minutes imaginable.

Toirres never identifies where, exactly, all this is going on. If you don’t recognize the sites, the topography, you’re left perhaps as disoriented as the main character, Eric (Raúl Briones), whose last days are remembered by a few who knew him, and recreated here. When “Oaxaca” is finally mentioned, you figure, “Ah, Mexico.” But where in Mexico?

Character names are either given up grudgingly, several scenes in, or never mentioned at all. Half the cast in the credits below is never identified. Who are they? What is their relationship to Eric?

Juliet (Sofia Alvarez), the fellow journalist he had an “open relationship” with, is seen roller-blading around a mostly-empty city, reflecting on Eric and (perhaps) remembering their inane conversations about their sexual history and this “buffalo man” they both have seen, here and there.

Yeah, it’s a guy with a buffalo’s head.

The bearded, homeless drunk (Antonio Monroi) followed around at length might be Eric’s physicist dad, in mourning over his journalist wife, whom “they disappeared.”

And Jonas (José Luis Pérez) is a self-described “thug” who was tasked with torturing Eric out of writing. He is interviewed on camera, and seen in a flashback, having just beaten Eric.

“I myself will turn you cold,” he threatens, in Spanish with English subtitles.

Eric reported on a mining company’s mistreatment of indigenous people, among other things. Jonas is the guy we see in an opening scene pump bullets into Eric.

There are other women, unnamed. One of them is an artist.

Too much of the dialogue is inane, too much detail (Eric actually “reporting”) is left out. We just see the toll authoritarian, anti-press kleptocracies take on journalists trying to seek the truth.

“A beast, if you look at it, devours you,” Eric intones. That must be why he’s seen the Buffalo Man. It has to be why has gotten the panic attack shakes.

There’s a story here, but Torres can’t be bothered to come right out and tell it. That doesn’t necessarily result in “art,” just an extremely aggravating and frustratingly opaque movie.

Rating: unrated

Cast: Raúl Briones, Sofia Alvarez, Verónica Bravo, Antonio Monroi, José Luis Pérez

Credits: Scripted and directed by David Torres. An IndiePix release.

Running time: 1:09

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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