Cassandro, the Exotico! (2018)

Cassandro, the Exotico!
Director: Marie Losier
Writer: Antoine Barraud, Marie Losier
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 5.11.2018

Saúl Armendáriz has spent over 25 years as the luchador Cassandro el exotico! and he has the body to show for it: aches and metal pins keep him both together and from continuing his career. But it’s not the only reason he finds himself in a difficult position: he is also gay and in the macho world of lucha libre, this is yet another fight – but one that Cassandro seems to have won. Nevertheless, facing the rest of his life, he has to figure out how to deal.

Cassandro the Exotico! is a mediocre documentary about a very interesting subject. Thanks to Cassandro and his charisma, it’s easy to look past the film’s weaknesses and enjoy it.

The film poster showing Cassandro in full Lucha Libre gear.

I’m usually not somebody who argues for an distanced or objective perspective in documentaries. For one, I don’t think it’s possible to be objective anyway, you’re always looking from a subjective position and two, the really interesting stuff tends to turn up when you’re not afraid of showing your position and examinint it in relation to what you’re documenting. But in this case, I have to admit that I found myself wishing for a little more distance from Losier to Cassandro.

It was just very obvious that Losier was very involved in Cassandro’s life and if you’d asked me, I would have sworn that she is probably many years his junior and generally very young (I googled it and it appears not to be the case – Losier is alread in her 40s). There was a certain inexperience or naivity here that seemed a hindrance to the film for me.

Cassandro in the film.

Maybe I wouldn’t have felt it so strongly if the documentary had generally been more structured. It jumped around a little too much for my taste, although I did enjoy the impressionistic, more abstract moments that Losier includes and that probably contributed to the feeling of lack of structure.

In any case, it was interesting to watch Cassandro. He is a very charismatic man who has led an interesting life so far, so making an enjoyable movie about him comes almost naturally. Through his life, we also see the not-so-glamorous side of the lucha libre and the way most fighters, even when they’re well-respected, have to face poverty at the end of the day. And of course, it’s interesting to see how the lucha libre community deals with Cassandro’s homosexuality and how that has changed with time.

So, even if I struggled with how the film was made, it’s still worth seeing it for its subject.

Cassandro in the film.

Summarizing: not great, but interesting.

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