With most motion pictures, you either get a case of art imitating life or life imitating art. In the case of Francesco Rosi’s Il Momento della Verità — better known to English-speaking audiences as The Moment of Truth — you have a situation where life is presented as art. Relayed via an in-your-face documentary style of filmmaking, Rosi brings us the tale of a young bullfighter named Miguel, played by a real life torero and non-actor, Miguel Mateo (all of the actors in the film are greenhorns — a deliberate deed on Rosi’s behalf to make his project look all the more “authentic”). Determined to leave the boring safety of his home with his aging farmer parents, Miguel sets off to Barcelona without any cents in his pocket or sense in his head.
After taking a few bullfighting lessons from an old man in a basement (seriously), Miguel winds up entering the ring and quickly becomes a genuine celebrity in the ring. As time goes on, however, our young intrepid hero begins to wonder when he should pack his Andalusian suit of lights up and call it a day. But, as his ultimate moment of truth beckons, Miguel can’t resist the mystifying allure that killing a poor innocent, two-ton horned critter that never asked to be put in the arena to begin with. Rosi nicely balances the bloody, final moments of the bulls with sublime imagery of his seemingly-indestructible superman in action — creating an uneasy, but nevertheless entrancing, picture.
Just in case it didn’t set in in the last two sentences, The Moment of Truth contains a number of gory onscreen deaths of helpless four-legged male cattle. If you’re a devout animal lover, or have even an inkling of compassion flowing through your veins, these sights won’t be terribly easy to witness without flinching (or becoming nauseous) — whereas if you are the type of person that enjoys seeing cows getting slaughtered, you’ll probably just be upset that the film is in Italian with English subtitles. Of course, if you really are the latter type, you’d be better off to just go and watch Faces of Death again instead.
The Criterion Collection releases this uneasy 1965 classic to Blu-ray in a marvelous 1080p transfer that brings out the absolute best (and worst) Rosi’s color palette has to offer (lots of reds, if you get me). Accompanying the feature is an Italian monaural soundtrack that delivers what it has to offer splendidly, and the easy-to-read white (with black shadow) English subtitles are removable, should you want to see how much Italian you actually remember from those lessons you just had to have. The only special features included here are an interview with Signore Rosi, as recorded in 2004 for this release, and a booklet housed in the case by movie critic Peter Matthews.
In short: The Moment of Truth is a good feature, but I can’t see it making it to PETA’s list of must-see classics anytime soon.