Prentiss Riddle: Movies

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Prentiss Riddle
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Meu festival pessoal do cinema brasileiro

Besides the books and music, I've also been watching a lot of Brazilian movies lately.

IMDB lists 4425 entries from Brazil whereas Vulcan Video only carries 32 Brazilian titles, so my choices are somewhat limited. (Netflix carries even fewer, which is why I'm no fan of Netflix. What's the point of abandoning your local video store if the big faceless service in the sky doesn't offer a better selection?) But here are the highlights.

Black Orpheus / Orfeu Negro (1959) - The movie that started the worldwide bossa nova craze. A retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice set against a gorgeous backdrop of Rio and music by Tom Jobim. I was humming tristeza não tem fim, felicidade sim for days afterward. There's a remake with music by Caetano Veloso, Orfeu (1999), which I haven't seen because I know it can't touch the original.

Bossa Nova (2000) - A fluffy bilingual romantic comedy by Brazilian director Bruno Barreto and starring his gringolandian wife Amy Irving. If you spot it a few points for occasional clunkers in the dialogue, it's a perfectly fine example of the genre, and again it's worth the rental price for the scenery of Rio alone.

Central Station / Central do Brasil (1998) - You probably know this one because it was Brazil's biggest art-house breakout in recent years, at least before City of God. Genuinely touching drama of an orphan and a lonely older woman who set out to find his family. Director Walter Salles' next project, The Motorcycle Diaries, has been getting lots of buzz: it's based on the trip Che Guevara took by motorcycle throughout South America before he became a revolutionary icon.

City of God / Cidade de Deus (2002) - Something I never thought I'd see, social realism wedded with a Quentin Tarantino-style aesthetic of violence. Somehow it works, perhaps because the departures into choreographed mayhem get across the appeal that violence might plausibly hold for kids trapped in the slums. One of my favorite movies.

Copacabana (2001) - An elderly resident of Rio's most famous beachfront neighborhood looks back over his life and the changes the city has seen. A good effort, but it requires some serious suspension of disbelief to see past its limited production values, notably the lead's old-man makeup.

Dog's Will / Auto da Compadecida (2000) - The copy I saw had one of the strangest covers in Vulcan, which is saying a lot: titled in Chinese, with several scruffy peasants overshadowed by someone who looked made up for the Chinese Opera. It turns out that the movie is 100% Brazilian and the strange dude is the devil, who appears only briefly. It's a thoroughly funny picaresque comedy about a couple of tricksters in rural 19th-century Brazil. The one feature which approaches the strangeness of the cover is some peculiar rapid-fire editing -- all the better for its cult value, I suppose.

Domésticas (2001) - Sympathetic but satirical look at lives of domestic servants in the big city. Some funny spots, some flat ones, on balance a good try.

Four Days in September / O Que É Isso, Companheiro? (1997) - Serious political thriller in a Costa-Gavras vein about an underground group during the Brazilian dictatorship who kidnap the American ambassador. Watchable, although both the characters and the plot would have been more interesting if they'd been a little less straightforward.

Me You Them / Eu Tu Eles (2000) - A poor woman in the badlands of the Brazilian Northeast accumulates four sons and three husbands. Slow, gorgeous, funny and sad. Regina Casé is remarkable as the anti-Sónia Braga: she looks like someone who spent twenty years chopping sugar cane and having babies but is sexy as hell anyway.

O Homem Nu (1997) - Silly and repetitive comedy about a man who gets locked out of his apartment, naked, and leads a slapstick chase across the city. It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Rio.

Ópera do Malandro (1986) - A Brazilian reinvention of the Threepenny Opera, with music by Chico Buarque. It's a noir musical, if you can imagine that combination, so it calls for a specialized taste, but I enjoyed it.

Then there are the movies I saw 20 years ago and barely remember now -- Pixote, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, and Gabriela, among others -- which I want to see again along with the new ones.

movies 2004.04.28 link

Comments

Oh, and you have to watch 'Carandiru', it's the best! I am not sure but I think it's by the same director of 'Pixote'. Also, have you tried http://www.nicheflix.com/index.aspx ? They seem to have a decent selection of foreign films but you need to have a multiregion DVD player.

seyd [seyd cxe ethno-queer punkto com] • 2004.04.29
Chicago's Facets Multi-Media http://www.facets.org) now has a Netflix-like service: $24/month for up to three films out at a time (postage is included both ways for DVDs, but it's an extra $5 for them to send a VHS tape, which you then also have to pay to return). A quick search of their catalog brings up 67 flicks with Brazil as country of origin, but only 26 when restricted to DVD.

Gabriel Suerte [gabriel cxe suerte punkto com] • 2004.04.29
Austin Film Society regularly schedules film series that spotlight films from a particular country, usually tied in with some subtheme or genre. The latest series was Iranian films. Why not email them and ask if they might consider Brazil for a future series? (You can get a membership for $20 or so and then see most of their movies for free ... it's one of the best deals in town.)

jette [jette cxe rootaction punkto net] • 2004.04.29
Try to see "Outras Estórias", 1999 production of Pedro Bial. It's a difficult film, but it's cool. It's an adaptation of Guimarães Rosa stories. Ask Colin about Rosa, author of Grande Sertão Veredas...
And... by the way, when will Carandiru release in USA??? Does someone knows?

Mina [neuza punkto paranhos cxe uol punkto com punkto br] • 2004.04.30
Another Brazilian movie to add to my life list:

The Trespasser/O Invasor (2002) - Stylishly directed and well-acted suspense piece about a hitman who won't go away after he finishes a job. Rock singer Paulo Miklos does a very spooky turn in the title role. The fact that he's a dead ringer for Harry Dean Stanton doesn't hurt. A few of the scenes are a bit too derivative (standard psychedelic night club footage, or Miklos strutting his psycho stuff in front of the mirror like De Niro in Taxi Driver). But there's one flaw that's driving me crazy: I can't for the life of me figure out what is supposed to have happened at the end and I'm not alone. If you understood the ending, please tell me!

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2004.05.02
I didn't see O Invasor and I'm curious about - especialy after you mention about the end. I saw Ação Entre Amigos e O Matador, from same director, Beto Brant. I liked the last one and considered Ação ok. Not more than this.

Mina [neuza punkto paranhos cxe uol punkto com punkto br] • 2004.05.05
Foreign Land/Terra Estrangeira (1996) - Brazilian expatriates struggling in the mean streets of Lisbon. Shot in leisurely black and white, it lies in a watchable spot halfway between a suspense-thriller and 70's euro-angst (you know, Fassbinder, Herzog, etc.) The interactions among the various Brazilian, Portuguese, Angolan and other characters are no doubt full of wry cultural and linguistic observations that sailed right over my head.

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2004.05.06
Chronically Unfeasible / Cronicamente Inviável (2000) - There must be a term for those talky philosophical movies that alternate barely-linked vignettes with somber and/or ironic voiceovers. I know I've seen a number of them over the years, but the only one that comes to mind is Mon Oncle d'Amérique. Anyway, this is another. The fault lines among the different classes, regions and ethnicities that make up Brazil play out in funny episodes -- as well as some not-so-funny footage of street kids, deforestation and Brazil's other tragedies.

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2004.05.16
Fiquei supresa ao achar sua página. Sou brasileira, transito entre Austin e o Brasil e faço cinema. Gostaria de conversar com você.

Atenciosamente,
luciana tanure

luciana fonseca tanure de castro [pazparamaria cxe yahoo punkto com punkto br] • 2004.05.16
Amor Bandido (1979) - A gritty crime drama directed by Bruno Barreto in the years between Dona Flor and Gabriela. It takes strong powers of the imagination to see through the muddy colors, wobbly audio and bad 70's fashion to find the sexy and dramatic movie underneath. At times I caught myself thinking, "Yes! I knew it all along! Of course Danny Bonaduce is a psychopathic serial killer!" But then the fearless sex scenes set the movie apart from anything else ever made with an Olivia Newton John/Crystal Gayle soundtrack, and it's clear that its relationship to bad pop culture is a conscious one (as when the Rio detectives sit around watching Kojak dubbed in Portuguese). On balance I'd recommend this one to Bruno Barreto completists but probably to nobody else.

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2004.06.01
Please see "Rifles" -- it can out in the late 60s / early 70s about the Nordeste and the army. The movie was banned in Brasil for its strong anti-goverment (really anti-army) message.

mark [mruthe cxe csc punkto com] • 2004.06.04
O Amor Natural (1997) - A sweet little movie about the erotic poetry of Carlos Drummond de Andrade. Drummond was a major figure in Brazilian literature and a beloved local celebrity in Rio. When he died in 1987 his family discovered a hidden cache of erotic poems which became a hit on their posthumous publication. The filmmakers chose to explore his poetry by asking elderly cariocas of Drummond's generation to read from his work. Rather than embarrassment, the readers show their delight in his explicit poems and add their own observations about sexuality. For a gringo I don't know whether it's more surprising to see the senior in the street be so sex-positive or so poetry-positive.

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2004.06.18
Bye-Bye Brasil (1979) - I'm amazed that I never saw this classic till now. Picaresque tale of a tiny circus touring the backroads of Brazil. If you wanted to sum up Brazil's famous optimism and humor in the face of adversity in a film, this would be it. Oh, and Chico Buarque's title song is worth the price of the rental by itself.

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2004.06.23
Behind the Sun/Abril Despedaçado (2001) - Period piece about a blood feud in the Northeast badlands in 1910. The sort of romantic art-house flick in which the weather changes on cue and never bathing is no obstacle to having perfect skin and hair at all times. I'd have expected better from director Walter Salles. (The novel by Albanian (!) author Ismail Kadare sounds more interesting.)

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2004.06.27
Moro No Brasil (2002) - A musical journey which I blogged about here.

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2006.07.23
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