Friday’s First Cut offering was Molly Clark’s engaging documentary about Frank Evans, a 66 year old man from Salford whose love of bullfighting made him return to Spain to indulge his passion, despite having had quadruple heart bypass surgery and a knee made of titanium.
I must first point out though that, despite the story having the appearance of being an inspirational one of triumph over adversity and willpower winning the day, I abhor bullfighting, so I was prejudiced towards Frank from the get go.
It’s not just bullfighting that I find repellent, it’s any sport which engages an animal to the death of that animal. It’s not an equal fight and therefore, it’s not a fair sport, however, I guess that’s a whole ‘nother issue and one perhaps ill suited to be aired in this forum.
And irrespective of the moral rectitude or not of Frank’s chosen pastime, it is without doubt admirable that the man has fought long and hard against the betrayals of his body to come out, quite literally, fighting and proving he can win.
With the aid of his friend and colleague, Bob, we watched as Frank made ready for a real bullfight in Spain with the aid of a wooden bull driven by a bike wheel and fierce moo’ing sounds. He practiced his rusty skills with these not so realistic stand-ins until he felt ready to face the real thing. And initially, the real thing threw him around like a rag doll.
However, he wasn’t going to be put off by that and boldly stated, “I don’t care what the bull does tomorrow. It will definitely be dragged out by the mules.”
And, sadly, it was.
Having demonstrated his love of showmanship to a delighted audience in Andalusia, Frank engaged the bull in a staring out contest which, as the bull was entranced by Frank’s cape and not his looming sword, Frank won. One of his ring compatriots moved in for the kill when the bull lay down and the mules did indeed drag the magnificent animal out of the ring.
We then saw Frank giving interviews to the assembled press in which he reiterated that he was up to the job as he’d just proved and therefore, he requested that his doubters now shut up and let him get on with it.
The film ended with similarly firm statements from Frank to Clark’s camera and the closing shot was of Frank rather incongruously dressed in full regalia and mincingly flapping a cape around in a park somewhere.
Again, my enjoyment of this film was largely tempered by my repugnance for Frank’s passion, so I had trouble in feeling a great deal of empathy or vicarious pride in his achievements. However, it can’t be denied that the man has indeed triumphed over much adversity; I just wish he’d demonstrated that triumph at something which didn’t involve animal cruelty and gratuitous bloodlust.