The story of two Italians doggedly trying to turn a profit on a stolen champion breeding bull in the new Central Europe isn’t exactly high on the common experience agenda for most folks. But in the hands of director Carlo Mazzacurati, a resourceful scripting team and a winning duo of contrasting but complementary actors, the characters’ dilemmas are invested with enough gentle humor, pathos and unexpected immediacy to make “The Bull” a strong contender to horn in on arthouse markets.
Burly co-op stud-farm worker Franco (Diego Abatantuono) loses his job due to staff cutbacks. When his employers refuse to cough up his settlement money, he breaks into their offices at night to confiscate legal proof of what he’s owed. But while he’s foraging, the farm’s prize bull, Corinto, sidles up, and the animal itself seemingly initiates the idea of the theft.
Having coaxed the massive beast off the premises, he goes looking for help from his good-heartedly meek chum Loris (Roberto Citran). Franco’s plan is to transport the valuable bull to Hungary, where it’s less readily identifiable, and hence more easily salable.
Having established its singular central quest, the film then switches gears, taking on an appealing, indolent rhythm as the protagonists’ problem-strewn journey gets under way. Traveling sequences are given a lilting gait by Ivano Fossati’s lush, richly melodic tunes.
Abatantuono is considerably more contained than usual, and Citran backs him up faultlessly.
In his customarily uncluttered style, director Mazzacurati tinkles away at the emotional keyboard with no sign of manipulation.
Alessandro Pesci’s agreeably loose camerawork makes a handsome palette of the vast landscapes. Mirco Garrone’s editing strings the journey’s many legs together at a breezy, fluid pace.