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Pixote: A Lei do Mais Fraco (1981)
"Pixote: A Lei do Mais Fraco" deals with what is perhaps the greatest of all Brazilian themes: poverty. And along with poverty the other unnatural feelings and actions it brings; prostitution, violence, crime, rape and murder.
Brazil is the country of paradoxes, and its social problems are present everywhere. The difference between the rich and the poor; the beautiful and the ugly; happiness and the most profound human decay.
"Pixote" is one of the films that dare to touch and open these so painful wounds, and does it without the slightest glimmer of hope, in an honest portrayal of a country that, like Pixote himself, is already lost.
Ganga Zumba (1963)
A Song for Freedom
"Ganga Zumba" is, to this very day, one of the greatest films ever made about slavery and the formation of African-based cultures on the Americas. Its brutally honest and poetic style are drenched in respect and admiration for the African people, in a nostalgic, hopeful way.
It's unfortunate that director Carlos Diegues went on to produce increasingly worse films with each new of his outings, for this one has stood the test of time like a fine black diamond.
Along with "Black God, White Devil" and "Barren Lives" this is a Brazilian Classic from the now legendary art movement "Cinema Novo", yet for some unknown reason this film is seldom talked about or remembered. A fact that does not diminish its astounding quality, easily on-par with the titles mentioned above.
Enchantment and Emotion
"Angela" is regarded by Brazilian film critics one of the gems the now legendary Brazilian studio Vera Cruz produced in the 1950's.
The film was an attempt to create a luscious, enchanting and visually stunning romance story about the classic love themes of loss and redemption.
While this style of Cinema, free from the social issues that usually permeate South American films, was deemed unworthy by many, today most critics rightfully agree that it represented a now-lost period in the country's history; of great innocence and hope, times when things were simpler and lives safer.
Despite having an ordinary story, the film's visuals continue to impress, specially the nearly-perfect cinematography, well above average even by today's standards.
Ultimately, "Angela" is a very entertaining film, with captivating performances and beautiful scenery. A naive classic of a Brazil that may or may not have existed only in dreams.
O Caso dos Irmãos Naves (1967)
A Cry for Justice
"The Case of the Naves Brothers" fills an important gap in the many genres of Brazilian Cinema - the trial movie.
The story - based on true events - follows the injustices suffered by two innocent brothers in a small Brazilian town, in which both are tortured for months by corrupt and despicable police officers.
While being expertly directed and written, the film is unfortunately dated on a technical level, yet its themes are more contemporary than ever, specially when one considers the constant violations of human rights in Third World countries such as Brazil.
Overall a very important, brave and honest film. A remake would be most interesting, specially in view of the rebirth of Brazilian Cinema.
A film that not should not be forgotten.
La niña santa (2004)
I lack words to express how impressed I was with Argentina's "La Niña Santa". It's easily of one of the best South American films in recent history, along with "City of God" and "Amores Perros".
The film follows a very simple plot: an attractive single mother lives in a hotel with her teenage daughter, and they are currently having many guests over for a science committee. Among the guests is Doctor Jano, a reserved and mysterious middle-aged man.
The film then proceeds to analyze and dissect the relationship between the three in an incredibly haunting and uncompromising manner. Seldom can a moviegoer be treated to such exquisite work in writing, cinematography and acting as with "La Niña Santa".
In addition to that, the relationship between the two teenage girls, Amalia and Josefina is one of the most realistic and beautiful portrays of adolescent life I have ever seen.
Simply the greatest film of 2004 and one of the best of this decade so far.
Pre-fabricated melodrama from Quebec.
Thirty-something woman finds video camera on the street and decides to ask people what they think happiness is.
While she's at it she takes her time to act "cute", "lost" and complain for two hours about how miserable her life is. We, the audience, have to endure this experience in a DV shot film, with an irritating actress and supporting cast.
We are witness to ridiculous statements from the people she interviews, such as a lonely man, a drug addict and other stereotypical characters of urban life. The main character takes her time and gives the most irritating laughs in recent cinema.
Another "sad bastard" movie.
Land of Plenty (2004)
Goodbye, Wim Wenders
"Land of Plenty" is not a film. It is a tombstone for the directorial career of German Director Wim Wenders.
Many felt it in "The Million Dollar Hotel" and now "Land of Plenty" makes it perfectly clear; not only has Wenders lost it, he's actually turned into a BAD director, creating horribly weak and superficial stories and scenes.
One might argue that the "time you lose it" comes for every director, but Wenders' case is extreme. It's as if he completely forget everything he knew about cinema and started all over again - only to get sloppish results.
In a few words, this film does not deserve your time.
Chun gwong cha sit (1997)
The greatest romance film of the 1990's.
From the ways things are going, "Happy Together" is going to remain director Wong Kar-Wai's most beautiful, visually-rich and significative film.
Here we have the story of two young men, lovers, that travel to Argentina only to find their relationship coming and going, while facing financial difficulties and increasing loneliness and isolation.
This is, of course, the theme of all WKW films. What sets this one apart is that unlike in "Fallen Angels" or "Chungking Express" where his impressionistic and expressive style of film-making constantly feels unnecessary and shallow, here the style conveys an incredibly rich and desperately beautiful array of feelings and moods, much more than in his following work "In the Mood for Love".
"Happy Together" is a landmark in the Cinema of the 1990's, and easily one of the best romance films of that decade. But unlike "traditional" romance films, HP is a lot more: a true testament to how it feels being lost in a foreign land; being young and in love, and feeling that mixture of pain and happiness that marks our lives; not knowing who you will meet around the corner.
Every frame of this film is filled with beauty, love, and an urgent sense of magic. Watch it, treasure it. Because WKW's gonna have a hard time making one better than this baby.
A Hora Mágica (1999)
Great Production Values. Bad Movie.
"A Hora Mágica" is based in one of the works of the great Argentinian writer Julio Cortázar, but it does little to add anything to its literary source.
The acting is stilted, unnatural, always distant and sloppy. The Director is often pretentious, displaying an incomprehensible screenplay that alienates the audience every change it gets.
The annoying repetition of the dubbing of the actors was maddening at times, and it's hard to believe they actually thought anyone would like that.
The neo-noir style, while effective, does little to save the shipwreck of a screenplay this film has. Watch it for the cinematography and production values alone.
Cama de Gato (2002)
Good Directing. Bad Acting.
"Cama de Gato" shot with practically no money, is the first feature lenght film from director Alexandre Stockler, and it covers one wild night in the life of three teenagers and the terrible consequences arisen from their what they consider "fun".
While the necessity of such a film is dire, and it its pacing and mise én scene works remarkably well for such a small picture, the lack of preparation the actors had great hurts the experience.
The portrayal of the three teenagers is stereotyped, bi-dimensional, unrealistic and even childish at times. The three are rarely believable, including the experienced Caio Blat.
One again, this film shows us how Brazil is filled with courageous and creative Directors, who unfortunately don't pay enough attention to the acting in their films. This is a prime example of why "City of God" appealed to so many and why other films don't.
Overall, a worthy attempt. I shall be patiently waiting for other films related to the TRAUMA manifesto.
The Village (2004)
Any of those who look at "The Village" as a horror story will be completely missing the point.
The Village is a political film, aimed at the current state of our nation, The United States of America, and our ever-growing loss of freedom and honesty.
Like "Dogville" before it, "The Village" is a metaphor, using a small, conservative American town to point out flaws in the entire country.
Cinematic ally, the film has its shortcomings, but one must congratulate the Director for having the courage to make this film in this country during these times.
A Tropical Opera of Social Chaos
"Redentor" perfectly displays the ever-growing strength of current Brazilian Cinema, and its remarkable versatility and reach. Pedro Cardoso stars as Célio Rocha, an ordinary middle-class man troubled by his lack of financial security. He lives in a decaying apartment with his two elderly parents, and dreams of getting away.
The chance seems to arise when he is reunited with an old childhood friend, which leads to fantastical and often desperate situations in his life.
"Rendentor" works admirably in displaying the desperation of the middle-classes in Brazil in face of the gargantuan social difference, which seems to grow like a monster with each passing second. Célio Rocha embodies the impending extinction of the middle-classes in Rio, and their desperation around the barbarian lower classes and the cruel and arrogant upper classes.
"Redentor" captures the ignorant faith present in every Brazilian, requirement for enduring life in this country. It works as dark and cynical Opera of the Social Chaos of every-day Brazil,.
Lost in Translation (2003)
The Most Overrated Film of 2003
First of all, unlike many viewers who disliked "Lost in Translation", I did not disliked it because it "lacks plot" or because "nothing happens". Cinema has proved, over 40 years ago, that Cinema is not Literature, and therefore plots can be subdued.
However, unlike Films such as "Before Sunrise", Lost in Translation doesn't work. You never seem to believe that Bob and Charlotte are having actual fun, instead it seems like they are PRETENDING to have fun. The main problem is that unlike "Sunrise", their relationship never feels natural, and you can always tell that there's a script behind their dialogue.
This is, obviously, non-intentional, which harms the film to a great extent, specially since it is not as clever or as atmospheric as it think its. Indeed, all the little atmosphere the film has is due to the excellent soundtrack and to the inherent charm Tokyo has, NOT because of Coppola's skills or the extremely dark and plain Cinematography. (the average film goer seems to love it for some reason. Anyone can shoot buildings from inside a car, and the interiors are poorly lit, at all times)
While Murray and Johansson are solid in their own respective parts, they lack any chemistry, and the same goes for Ribisi and Faris. In fact, Faris should not be in this picture, but apparently Sofia Coppola felt we needed a little bit of her personal problems (shown in an extremely literal manner) on the screen.
To sum it up, this one could've been a Cult Classic, one of the great off-beat Romance Films in Cinema History. Unfortunately, due to Coppola's spoiled-girl Direction and amateuristic skills and editing, it's simply "cute".
Cazuza: O Tempo Não Pára (2004)
Honest, Inspiring and Unforgettable
Not being a Cazuza fan, I was remarkably impressed with how good, inspiring, and unforgettable this movie proved to be.
Some may be put off by the narrative style, which employs a significant amount of freedom in its composition. We aren't treated to a normal dramatic progression, instead being given specific segments of time covering Cazuza's adventures, relationships, dreams and hardships, as if we were looking at a picture book. This brings a sense of poetry, liveliness and urgency to the picture, even if it may displease moviegoers used to Hollywood film-making.
The Cinematography - as the narrative style - is urgent, free-floating, using only hand-held cameras. To put it quite simply, the picture perfectly captures the poetry of being young, of hoping for better days, of yearning to feel alive and connect with people.
Daniel de Oliveira's performance is easily one of the best I've seen this decade, and I hope he picks up many awards around the globe with his work - both extremely convincing and captivating. He's one of your great young actors, and I hope to see him in many more pictures.
Thankfully, this is a picture that can be enjoyed by any Brazilian, as it is a testimony of a great period of our culture. This film is not only about Cazuza - is about any kid out there with dreams in his heart and the courage to try and go some good in this world.
Congratulations to Carvalho, Werneck, Lucinha and co. for creating one of the Best Brazilian films in recent memory.
Our idols cannot - and will not - be forgotten.
Herr Tartüff (1925)
It strikes me as odd that Herr Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, easily one of the 25 Greatest Directors in History, delivered such a plain, forgettable and uninspired film. I can't help but to wonder what sort of business must've been going on with the UFA Executives at the time.
All the elements of the great German Silent Cinema are here - screenwriter Carl Mayer, Actor Emil Jannings, Actress Lil Dagover, and of course, the genius F.W. Murnau, yet for some reason the film lacks all the brilliancy and magic of Murnau's other works, reminding one of the epilogue of "The Last Laugh" when Murnau and Mayer were consciously trying to make something vulgar and ridiculous.
This feeling comes across throughout the entire length of "Herr Tartüff", in which the story is told in pure, unflinching mockery. Even the customary visual flair of Murnau's films is nowhere to be found here, aside from one or two shots in the which the Director must've let his genius come out for a moment.
Even Emil Jannings - arguably the greatest silent film actor who ever lived - is unconvincing as the charlatan Tartuff. The same can be said of the rest of the cast, unfortunately.
It does give one a feeling of sadness that this picture had the potential to be another Murnau Classic (something that wouldn't be too bad considering so few of his films are available to the general public), but all one can hope for is a DVD release of all his other, unknown films; something that seems quite unlikely, considering the extremely reduced fan base for Silent Pictures.
To sum it up, I can only recommend it for fans of Murnau and Jannings.
Diarios de motocicleta (2004)
A beautiful love letter to South America
Walter Salles now proves for good, he's one of the best working Directors in the World.
With "The Motorcycle Diaries" we come to realize, day by day, how Countries and Directors outside of the Mainstream (a.k.a. United States / Europe) are the ones responsible for the truly genuine, honest and emotional pictures these days.
As my title describes it, "The Motorcycle Diaries" truly is a love letter to South America - most notably the Spanish Speaking Countries. Only a Brazilian Director (therefore a close cousin) could've conjured up such sincere and heartwarming feelings of brotherhood, freedom, justice and charity.
Once again, Brazil proves to be one of the chief centers of Talented Film Makers today. Let us hope more beautiful works of Art such as this come in the future.
Bravo South America !
O Pagador de Promessas (1962)
One of the overlooked Masterpieces in Cinema History
It's really a shame that this masterpiece is constantly overlooked by All-Time Greatest Lists, even though it won the prestigious Palm d'Or at Cannes.
"The Bicycle Thieves" is frequently cited as the greatest entry into Social Cinema, yet unfortunately the public and the critics seem to forget the sheer beauty that "The Payer of Promises" is. While "Bicycle"'s influence is undeniable, "Payer" goes beyond that.
Honest, multi-layered and amazingly contemporary, this is one of those movies that have admirably stood the test of time - specially if one considers the difficulty it is making Films in Brazil.
Featuring incredibly believable and dramatic performances, a rich, vivid setting and neo-realist technique employed in an elegant and sincere manner, this movie should not be missed. I found impressive how well the film flows - nothing is there gratuitously and the pacing is pitch perfect.
The amazing strength, courage and valor of Brazilian Cinema is a force to be reckoned with, as we take a look at the works of Film Makers such as Peixoto, Duarte, Rocha, Candeias, Bressane, Khouri, Salles and most recently, Meirelles. To list a very short list.
In fact, I can say without fear that it is a better Film than The Bicycle Thieves. It is easily one of the Best Brazilian Films in History - if not one of the Best in Film History. Period.
Tian qiao bu jian le (2002)
Yet another masterpiece from Ming-Liang
Having seen this before the flawless masterpiece "Goodbye, Dragon Inn" and actually coming out of them both with this still in my mind (after all the power and beauty of GDI), clearly shows the brilliance and vision of Ming-Liang's later films.
I must admit - I didn't like his films before. The long takes seemed unnecessary and most of his films felt plain and boring. Most notably "The River", which was incredibly overrated.
But now, the difference !
His dogma hasn't changed - Ming-Liang still uses the same visual concepts of long planes and minimalism, but he takes it to a never before seen level of freshness and beauty. Forget "The River"'s boring tone. This and "GDI" share a lyricism and an underlying humor that few films have managed to capture.
Make no mistake about it - he is most creative and honest film maker today. This small comedic masterpiece is not only interesting on a visual level, it's brilliant in a hopeless, urban way.
If you have the privilege to see both this and "Goodbye, Dragon Inn", don't waste it.
You'll be seeing the best there is Cinema today.
Forget Von Trier, Lynch, the Andersons.
Ming-Liang is where it's at.
Bu san (2003)
One of the Greatest Films Ever Made
What can be said about Ming-liang Tsai's "Goodbye, Dragon Inn" ?
"Brilliant", "Genuine", "Honest", "Heartbreaking" are some of the adjectives that come to mind.
First of all, let me state that this is not a film for everyone. People with an attention span of 30 seconds should stay away from this film for they will hate it with all their heart. But, if you are open and sensitive to time, distance and atmosphere, this is your film.
Never have corridors, rooms and hallways felt so sad and lonely in Cinema History. Every frame cries with sadness, loneliness and memories.
In "Goodbye, Dragon Inn" Ming-liang asks us to remember. To feel. He wishes to recapture the textures, the air, the shadows, the silence. He invites us to remember these things.
Shiang-chyi Chen fleshes out another brilliant performance (following her performance in Ming-liang's "The Passageway is Gone", another masterpiece, by the way). She gives us one of the most heartbreaking, honest and haunting performances in recent Cinema.
Instead of falling into the predictable "Art House" category, Ming-liang delivers what is a funny, moving and unforgettable film. Every single detail, every single performance, is a tiny jewel worth more than any grand or epic scene Hollywood could possible deliver.
Every single echoing step from Shiang-chyi Chen's character feels like the last heart beats of a lonely and broken heart. "Goodbye, Dragon Inn" floods with heart and warmth. In the end, it is a pessimistic film - but with one small shining light of hope. And it is focusing on that light that the film closes its curtains.
Rejoice, Ming-liang Tsai. Your latest film has just sneaked in into the Top 100 Films Ever. Quite easily, in fact. "GDI" is also, the Best Film of the Decade, as it is.
I hope that somehow, a DVD is released in Western countries.
Or else I will personally travel to Taiwan in order to buy a copy.
To sum it up - one does not come out unchanged from "Goodbye, Dragon Inn".
Akitsu onsen (1962)
One of the Best Japanese Films of the 1960's
Featuring one of Japan's finest actresses, Mariko Okada, "Akitsu Onsen" is one of the most essential Japanese films of the 1960's.
Joining post-war background, devotion, loneliness and passion, Yoshishige Yoshida creates a remarkably beautiful and lyric film - relying only on the two main characters relations.
Okada, who had already worked with one of the greatest Film Directors in History, Yajusiro Ozu, handles the part with exceptionable beauty and charm.
While Hiroyuki Nagato's performance solid, it has not enough depth for us to take real interest in him - it serves only as a background for Mariko Okada to shine and show her incredible charm, innocence and acting skills.
As most Asian Directors, Yoshida has a sharp eye for framing, and this comes across in every second. Every shot and plane is perfectly balanced, giving the film a beautiful look. Seldom have I seen better framing in a Film. The Japanese once again demonstrate their extreme talent with Film composition and aesthetics. Contrary to what many think, Kurosawa is not the only Japanese director with such talent.
In the end, Mariko Okada and Yoshishige Yoshida (wife and husband) are one of the most defining Director-Actress couples in Film History (along with Yimou Zhang/Gong Li and Ingmar Bergman/Liv Ullman).
I had the honor to meet both Yoshida and Okada at the 27th São Paulo International Film Festival in 2003, and they proved two be two exceptionally humble and pleasant people.
I demand a Criterion Collection DVD right now. Not only of "Akitsu Onsen" but of all Yoshida and Okada films.
Don't miss this one.
Seja o Que Deus Quiser! (2002)
A shame to the New Brazilian Cinema
I wonder how this movie got made in this first place. Didn't the writers, producers, actors, financers and the director realize what utter piece of cinematic trash they were about to create ?
This movie doesn't have mistakes, it's IS a mistake. And I shall now list what aspects compose that:
1-Horrible acting and dialogue, specially from Ludmila Rosa and Caio Junqueira. Marília Pera and Rocco Pitanga aren't necessarily bad, but aren't good either.
2-Amateur camera work, and unnecessary "clever" editing, which brought absolutely nothing to the story.
3-Cheap and predictable moralistic themes
4-Stereotyped and bi-dimensional characters, which bring no interest at all.
5-The lack of talent of the people involved is shown in virtually every frame.
7-No interesting relationships, actions, dialogue, nothing.
8-Wasted potential of the setting - the lives of Teenagers from São Paulo could prove to be very interesting, yet this movie fills me with disgust for the very city I live in.
9-Seems like a very poorly done advertisement for MTV, which in the end, renders itself utterly worthless.
10-Worst of all - this is a movie that actually thinks it's good, funny and entertaining.
In the end, Murilo Salles produced the work of a spoiled (and untalented) child. This kind of quality is what took Brazilian cinema down once, and if people like Salles (Murilo, not Walter, mind you) continue to make films, it shall happen again. I also suggest that Ludmila Rosa should be forever banned from the world of Cinema.
It is indeed sad, to see Brazilian Cinema (which shows a lot of potential) be stained by works such as these. Murilo Salles has created what is easily one of the worst movies of the new decade (worldwide). It actually manages to be worse than "Carandiru".
So, instead of walking into this cinematic horror, prefer works from real film directors such as Walter Salles, Fernando Meirelles, Laiz Bodansky, Beto Brant or Luiz Fernando Carvalho.
3.0/10 - Don't pass near this one.
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Very original and fun.
I was very surprised when I watched Moulin Rouge! After the wonderful year of 1999 when it comes to movies, 2000 was a very low year for movies.
Maybe now in 2001 things will change. We had the excellent Shrek, the revolutionary Final Fantasy, and now the year's best movie until now, Moulin Rouge.
The movie is not perfect, and maybe it's flaws should be highlighted before its virtues.
The story is a little weak, some of the songs are repeating, some of the themes should be more varied and the movies goes a little long on the 2nd half.
But on the other hand, the movie had great music, great singing (specially from Ewan McGregor), wonderful art direction, costume desing and funny performances from the supporting cast. The movie was very fresh and original, and really nice to watch.
It could have been a perfect movie and possibly be on a list of the greatest 100 films of all time, but for now don't miss it and go watch Moulin Rouge