We gave it a B-
It isn’t every day that a movie starring two Oscar winners arrives with as little fanfare as A Matador’s Mistress (2011, Not Rated, 1 hr., 32 mins.). Made back in 2006, this lyrical but lightweight biopic of 1940s Spanish bullfighting legend Manolete has spent an eternity in mothballs mainly because U.S. distributors were spooked by the prospect of PETA protests. That said, the straight-to-DVD import (in English) has its charms, especially if you consider the sight of a man bravely staring down a snorting, charging bull the height of macho entertainment. I don’t. But thankfully, the movie isn’t called A Matador. It’s called A Matador’s Mistress, and Penélope Cruz, as the titular temptress, is the best thing the film has going for it. With her smoky eyes, front-and-center gold tooth, and earthy sex bomb appeal, you can see why Adrien Brody’s torero goes absolutely loco when she struts on screen in a hip-hugging red dress. He may be a national hero, but this is a woman who’s too much even for him. The couple’s tempestuous relationship is the movie’s focus. He explains the poetry of bullfighting to her (”To be a great torero, you have to be a little bit in love with death”); she tortures him with her romantic indifference (”I belong to you because I don’t belong to you”). He sketches her while she sleeps; she eats apples with carnal verve. He storms into jealous rages; she does her best to sell some lousy lines (”I’m just your mistress, death is your wife”). All of this flamenco-flecked foreplay leads up to the inevitable sunny afternoon in 1947 when Manolete is fatally gored in the ring. But the movie seems to suggest that even if the bull hadn’t killed him, his lusty mistress would have. B?