Review

Cassandro, The Exotico! review – entertaining portrait of a lucha libre wrestler

Marie Losier's brief documentary deals with some heavy topics but works best as a good-natured look at a unique athlete

French filmmaker Marie Losier’s latest documentary, Cassandro, The Exotico!, takes us on an impressionistic tour of the often chaotic and sometimes wonderful life of a Mexican lucha libre wrestling star. Cassandro is an openly gay wrestler and, as such, has been given the character of an “exotico,” a flamboyantly camp antagonist for the straight, macho luchas.

It might seem at first glance like an unfortunately oppressive milieu for Cassandro, but Losier’s interviews and archive footage show the exact opposite to be true. Cassandro is a genuinely excellent wrestler and he gets a lot of joy out of his character, who is very popular with the passionate lucha audiences found in Mexico and the southern US. His fame has even allowed him to reconnect with his father, and the scenes in which they’re together are gently moving.

Losier mostly focuses on the later years of Cassandro’s career, where a wince-inducing list of injuries – the athleticism on display in the wrestling bouts is consistently impressive – is forcing retirement considerations. This harsh dose of reality brings a sadness to some otherwise very colourful proceedings as Cassandro reflects on the childhood traumas and later drug addictions that his wrestling career eventually saved him from.

Losier’s friendly interview style makes for easygoing conversations, even when the subject matter is heavy. It’s a necessary lightness of touch: even at 75 minutes Cassandro, the Exotico! feels somewhat overextended. It’s debatable whether Losier’s footage really adds up to a deserving feature film, but Cassandro makes for such compelling company you’re unlikely to care.

Cassandro, The Exotico! is now streaming on MUBI.

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