Straight-laced, bloody and gorgeous, “The Matador” takes bullfighting on its own terms, profiling a few challenging seasons in the life of popular, young Spaniard David Fandila, aka “El Fandi.” PETA activists will be apoplectic, but the pic is geared to more culturally open-minded viewers unacquainted with the subtleties of the corrida, revealing that it’s a primitive though complex sport, and that Fandila is an athlete with a dancer’s skills. PC fests afraid of angry vegans may shy away, but bigscreen qualities suggest a modest commercial item.
Director-producers Stephen Higgins and Nina Gilden Seavey practice solid journalism in their coolheaded observation of El Fandi’s triumphs and tribulations as he aims for the rarely realized goal of performing in 100 corridas in a season. In his early 20s, Fandila expresses a mixture of confidence, competitiveness and — where his g.f. and family are concerned — a few misgivings about his profession, from its crazy risks to impassioned fans. While time is given over to debating the sport’s suitability in the modern world, the doc is most concerned with the enormous work and craft a world-class matador must master — along with some enormous bulls.