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The Mandarin (1995)

O Mandarim (original title)
The history of Brazilian popular music in the 20th Century, focusing specially on the life and works of intriguing singer Mário Reis, a loner who, with his special way of singing - ... See full summary »


Júlio Bressane


Júlio Bressane, Rosa Dias (scenario collaborator) | 2 more credits »
4 wins. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Fernando Eiras ... Mário Reis
Giulia Gam Giulia Gam
Gal Costa ... Carmen Miranda
Gilberto Gil Gilberto Gil ... Sinhô
Raphael Rabello Raphael Rabello ... Heitor Villa-Lobos
Rubens Santos Rubens Santos
Chico Buarque Chico Buarque ... Noel Rosa (as Chico Buarque de Hollanda)
Edu Lobo Edu Lobo ... Tom Jobim
Caetano Veloso ... Himself
Renata Sorrah
Daniela Arantes Daniela Arantes
Catarina Abdalla Catarina Abdalla ... (as Catarina Abdala)
Drica Moraes
Costinha Costinha
Paschoal Villaboin Paschoal Villaboin


The history of Brazilian popular music in the 20th Century, focusing specially on the life and works of intriguing singer Mário Reis, a loner who, with his special way of singing - whispering and softly saying the words - in a time when singers with potent voices ruled, was in a way a forerunner of Bossa Nova style. Written by <lukejoplin@infolink.com.br>

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Release Date:

January 1996 (Netherlands) See more »

Also Known As:

The Mandarin See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


Film debut of Fernando Eiras. See more »

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User Reviews

Not uninteresting, but frustrating; we're still waiting for a film to do justice to Mário Reis' revolutionary art
23 March 2005 | by debblystSee all my reviews

This film is about ground-breaking Brazilian singer Mário Reis (1907-1981), who at 21, in 1928 (times of powerful dramatic voices even in popular music), landed big on Brazilian popular culture with his soft voice and natural, good- humored, conversation-like delivery in dozens of charming sambas and marchas for the Carnival. He was phenomenally successful for 7 years, then chose to withdraw from the music business, making a few short-lived comebacks from time to time (in the late 30s, in the early 50s, and in the early 70s). He was also famous for having lived for decades at the renowned Copacabana Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro. Mário Reis is widely considered the main influence of bossa nova genius João Gilberto's distinctive singing style.

But none of this information above -- and very little else -- on Mário Reis' life is available in "O Mandarim". It's that kind of film for which it's wise to do your homework, because the director isn't telling you anyway, not even why Mário chose to have such an erratic career. It's not supposed to be biography; it's a subjective portrait by Bressane with a brush/camera made of colors and light, following Abel Gance's definition: "cinema is the music of light". But it feels legitimate to say this film can only be fully appreciated by those interested in Brazilian popular music and its history and or in Bressane's cinema.

Director Julio Bressane emerged in the Brazilian Underground movement ("Cinema Marginal") in the late 60s, barely in his early 20s, and made a huge impact with "Matou a Família e Foi ao Cinema" / "Killed His Family and Went to the Movies" (1969). His style is distinctive and instantly recognizable: experimental language, long static scenes alternated with hand-held shots, little action, no story-telling, frozen shots, fragmentary editing, sparse dialog with a lot of jeux de mots, psychoanalytical influences, "unconscious"- flowing rhythm, all kinds of filters and camera angles, lovely soundtrack (especially of Brazilian songs of the 1930s), wonderful locations and a great sense of composition.

The budget must have been some 20 bucks, but make no mistake: all people involved (cast & crew) are experienced professionals. This one has the very big plus of an all-star cast: Brazilian music legends of today play Brazilian music legends of the past. Thus, Gal Costa plays Carmen Miranda, Raphael Rabello plays Villa-Lobos, Chico Buarque plays Noel Rosa, Gilberto Gil plays Sinhô etc, but this doesn't mean they are supposed to "act" these characters -- someone just points to Gal Costa and says "oh, my dear Carmen Miranda..." and there you go.

Fernando Eiras does his best with the little material he's given to perform the main role and is specially fine in emulating Mário Reis' staccato singing style. And of course it's always nice to hear Francisco Alves, Caetano Veloso, Chico Buarque, Gilberto Gil etc on the soundtrack. This film plays like a series of music clips not unlike MTV in style -- but please bear in mind that Bressane and Brazilian filmmakers of the 60s/70s were developing those aesthetics (fragmentary editing, hand-held camera, unconventional camera angles, shots out of focus, etc) long before MTV even EXISTED.

Watch "O Mandarim" if you are a fan or researcher of Brazilian music or of Bressane's cinema, and are open to unconventional film-making; but beware of long sequences with no action or dialog. My vote: 5 out of 10, not because the film is uninteresting, but because Bressane missed the opportunity to do justice to this ground-breaking, revolutionary singer and his unusual life and extraordinary career -- we're still waiting.

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