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Criteria: below ten titles, only counting films and TV films, and with less than two known works (that's why you won't be seeing Heather O'Rourke here, just an example).
A Paixão de JL (2015)
The fascinating portrait of an artist
A mindblowing and unique portrait by an artist conceived by the artist himself though rescued years after his death, "A Paixão de JL" ("The Passion
of JL") reveals the inner thoughts, feelings, loves and fears of plastic artist José Leonilson (1957-1993), presented through audio tapes he decided to
record after 1990 as a testimony of his life, work and his battle against AIDS, a disease that claimed his life at an early age. It's a challenge to many
viewers since you don't get to see the man (except for two minor and obscure archive images) so you have to imagine who he has by listening to his tapes. In
between his audios the film presents his paintings, memorable works and clips from movies he described on the tapes, films that moved him or inspired his
work through many emotions; and TV archives that reflected the period he was living.
Carlos Nader's documentary is a brilliant piece of art that doesn't answer much about the artist but makes you feel curious about the man, his desires and
his thought process whether working or living his life with passion, some self-pity and some tenacity.
Leonilson (as he was known) was part of the 1980's art generation of young artists who domianted the scene with their paintings or another plastic works breaking the conventional rules of previous decades, leaving their mark and conquering admirers on the way; and he managed to be the greatest figure of the period. His tapes which covers in betwen 1990-1993 presents the man, his inner self and how world and/or personal events shaped his artistic works - it can go from personal memories revolving around himself or some guy he loved, or the on-going world conflicts such as the Gulf War, or even his condition as an HIV positive individual which marked his final works after his diagnosis in 1991, with paintings that seemed to reflect a social/political agenda (as evidenced in a work where he painted several cups and each of them had a title of social/sexual variations of people that weren't part of the social chain of status quo and suffered some form of prejudice (homosexuals, natives, blacks, jews and others), but he identified with all of those groups.
In between his recordings there's images of his works from all periods, and archive footage from movies and clips he saw at the time and his opinions on those works and how they affected his life, his work and his world view (the highpoint is when he talks about "Paris, Texas" where he compares himself to the lead character both being wanderers in life who walk miles and miles trying to find their way in the world). Leonilson presents himself as being a man devoted to art, filled with life, confidence and passion at the same time he was vulnerable, at times insecure, completely open about his sexuality or his desire of having a companion but failing to succeed it fully; and quite contradictory as well (that's a difficult to explain since he mentions about his fears of going into a sexual relation due to disease, almost as if saying he never had one or perhaps people's prejudice - have in mind the period he was living - yet like many great people of that time he died from the plague. As evidenced by the documentary "Leonilson, sob o Peso dos Meus Amores" he had the tendency of creating an athmosphere, a character to present himself as sufferer or rejected at times but that wasn't necessarily the case. He was a lot more than the tender suffering soul. He wasn't a loner, he had great friends, lots of company and loves. But that doesn't matter...his work is what stays on.
By not presenting images of the man, Nader makes of Leonilson a more enigmatic and interesting character than we suppose he is. During his audio diaries, I felt really connected with the man and the artist, his world and personal views were so similar to mine in many aspects that I was deeply sad he's no longer with us anymore - here's a guy you'd like to know personally to share ideas, to admire and create art together if possible. Gotta admit, I fell in love with him. And you can see when he speaks about everything, either art, the guys he met, or his disease that he always have the right emotion either nostalgic for seeing Madonna's video or angry because he got scabies from an unknown individual (his reference to Shakespeare on that moment was priceless). Most of his final paintings and/or other plastic works reflect what he was living. One of his final works consists of two white shirts over a chair with different sizes, one huge, almost floating on the chair and other more tight to the chair, a sign that gives a notion about AIDS devastating effects.
A mix of emotions, sensations, feelings and inspiration, "A Paixão de JL" is a must-see documentary not because of the man and the artist, but also as a testimony of an era that was blessed to be open to arts at the same time it was too closed for certain human interactions. And to understand Leonilson's work is a great to know and find the man, his life, passion, inner conflicts and desires. It's all there in every trace, every line, every word he put it on the canvas. His images echo the reality, so with art he gets back at us to reach and understand what was life in 1980's-1990's and others that present the world as it ever was, is and possible will be. 10/10
"Nation's Pride", the war movie within "Inglourious Basterds".
"Inglourious Basterds" fans will remember the heroic Nazi soldier Frederick Zoller (played by Daniel Brühl) standing alone on a tower and shooting
several Allied soldiers, becoming a legendary figure in the film within the film "Stolz der Nation" ("Nation's Pride"). Though only bits and pieces of that
appear in Tarantino's film, the whole short film was released on "Inglourious" Dvd as bonus material, a short film directed by Eli Roth which captures the
essence of German cinema from the Goebbels era. Result: a fun war movie that has the style of the 1940's but the rhythm of current cinema, almost like
"Saving Private Ryan". And once again Mr. Brühl is excellent as the lone hero (here he speaks mostly in German).
Obviously you don't get to see a whole feature film, it's just a glimpse of the movie presented in "Inglorious Basterds" but it's worth seeing anyway. Lone wolf Zoller is seen firing his rifle against several soldiers, a complete war zone where you can see the man's pain, agony, angry, and even some sense of fulfillment. Yet Roth's film always finds a way to include humored moments such as a spoof to the classic scene from "Battleship Potemkin" where a baby stroller stands between the shooting (also a spoof on "The Dead Zone" movie when the soldier holds the baby to protect himself from Zoller's attack); and the hilarious moment where several Allied soldier manage to create a perfect swastika from their bullets on Zoller's tower but they cannot find a way to hit the guy. Amazing.
Entertainment is the key here, and because Quentin needed this device for his incredible story. I know Eli Roth is fully devoted to the horror genre but I honestly think he should give it a try to make a full feature war film. With this project you can evidence that he has an eye for aesthetics, knows how to edit altogether and present a valuable film. Another thing that makes this film more interesting is that Roth made a behind the scenes where Julie Dreyfus and the actor who played Goebbels in Quentin's film make their comments about "Nation's Pride" and Roth plays the film director Alois von Eichberg, a hystercial and funny performance where he looks like a veteran bossy director talking about his movie (the German accent is hilarious). I saw it on YouTube but couldn't find more information about it elsewhere (except for a wiki site dedicated to "Inglourious" but there's isn't a source where it was released neither technical aspects, cast and crew. It's shorter than the short but quite realistic as well. Thumbs up to all three projects. 9/10
P.S.: 10 years down the road!
Radiohead: All I Need (2008)
More than a clip, it's a reality
A split screen presents two different realities yet despite many contrasts there is something in common between the two lead characters from this music video:
it revolves around children of similar age and one pair of shoes. On the left corner we have a kid from a developed country, he lives in a place where he can study,
have fun with his friends, spends his time in between duties and pleasure while living a colorful comfortable life. On the right corner there's a Chinese kid who
throughout most of the video is seen working and working, minor break then back to work again, living/working under extremely poor conditions just to get a nickel at
the end of the day. What connects both kids? As said before, a pair of shoes. The more developed kid uses the shoes made by the Chinese kid...I guess you a picture from
"Radiohead: All I Need" video is a gripping, relevant and masterful work that serves to create a debate, to open minds who are either too ignorant to see the reality before their eyes - because seeing that kind of thing on the news isn't enough and to have a feature film with a similar topic is something most audiences tend to avoid. And this isn't much of a case of a band making us analyze our lucky and privileged we are for not having to endure hardships and feel ashamed because others have it worse (some may feel this way, we're human and some of us have conscience, or we think about how our lives could be different than what we know and live); no, here's a video that raises awareness on children's exploitation through hard labour. Here, the sneakers/shoes are the most suitable example because it's something a majority of people benefit from - objects coming from the other side of the world, specially China where they sell it for almost nothing while exploiting workers paying less than a dollar an hour and working for long hours (it does happen in other nations too, just using the example because it's what the video gives us). When you get that scope you can image other dimension such as sexual/traffic exploitation of children; or the kids who are taken by drug lords to become their bodyguards and take over control of full neighborhoods in the favelas of Brazil - someone is always profiting and taking advantage of innocent beings that should have the opportuity to live, play, learn things, go to school and find themselves a future just like that kid from the left corner. Do you think he ever thought about that kid who made his shoes? Does he ever know about his existence? Does he feel guilty about his privileges or feel sorry about that hard working exploited kid or it'll come with time when he grow up and live a promising life? We wonder..."Will those feet in modern times walk on soles that are made in China?" And as for the other kid, work is all that there is. To support himself and his family, nothing more, no time to play and be a normal child.
The main concern for Thom Yorke and troupe is not even sell the song or make it an appealing song to play on the radio (back in the day, it played a lot as I vividly remember), but above all is to create a powerful campaign about the issue revolving working children. That's important. I've seen the video several times through the years, from MTV Brazil "dying days" then at high school when there's a nice debate about it to current days. With a page on the site I'm kinda late in writing it but the timing couldn't been more appropriate. I always like to write about the things I see in arts, films or music videos when there's some form of relevance or a mirror to life when we can analyze and present a perspective on things because after all life reflects art and vice-versa. This review takes the risk of being dated but I don't care. Our current government has a president that, despite changing countless working laws to the point where basically no one will be able to retire, he said that children will be allowed to work under the new law. School's not important but work is, that's level of mentality. And I come to look back at this video and think we're one step away of having a generation of working kids that won't know the value of education, they'll only be created for work through their whole lives seeing the world going around them, other people evolving while they'll stay at the same dead-end job, living in poverty, underpaid and whose work is used for others to profit either inside their country or elsewhere. This isn't what they need but it might be all they have. Gotta fight this at all costs. 10/10
A mystery of all sorts with a fascinating and unforgettable song as background
A highly unusual video made by Gerard de Thame with a magnificent sepia-colored cinematography by Jeff Darling, "Tanita Tikaram: Twist in My Sobriety"
is worthy mostly because of its music, melody, and mysterious lyrics. Despite some hauntingly beautiful images which revolves around poverty, children playing and old folks driving through a desert place (a Bolivian village), it's the music that speaks volumes - more artful minds will find ways to form a connection in between the lyrics, the sounds
and the imagery. To me, they both carry a deep sense of mystery, an enigma that possibly requires subsequent views so you can form a whole from both arts: the
visual and the sonorous. In a way, it's an interesting way to sell a song...to make it more intriguing, appealing and something that makes you keep coming back
even if it's just to hear those incredible arrangements, that clarinet and Tanita's angelical voice. 8/10
People's Temple (1973)
A report on the times before Jonestown. Slightly interesting.
This short film is a rare glimpse on the People's Temple Church, its leader Jim Jones and the crowd five years before the Jonestown tragedy where more
than 900 people committed suicide on an act of protest against the persecution that suffered back in California and also from its defectors who wanted to get back
home after spending harsh times while living in Guyana. If you're here reading this you probably know a lot about the mass suicide, its aftermath and stuff. Now,
here's a documentary that chronicles a little bit about People's Temple previous to the tragedy - sort of interesting if we consider the level and ammount of
information given to it since it was all on the hands of Jones. So, here's a response to the media and its allegations and accusations to Jones about the abuse he
committed to the church members, which were escalating to a point where he couldn't find ways to defend himself so he bought himself a way out by taking his church
and its members all the way to South America where the initial paradise-like place became a hell of all sorts.
I'm giving thumbs down to the project not because of its makers - they had their fault by not digging a lot more or possibly because they were too close to Jones that the only alternative was to give the man the benefit of the doubt and support him all the way - but I found it a unsatisfactory project where we some church members all praising divine love and the man at the same time they seemed uncomfortable with what they were doing. With those images in mind one may wonder: why they didn't try to get away from that place as quick as possible? Those who escaped before Jonestown were the lucky ones. And I bet some of the people who appeared in this piece died there. And what bothers most is that the disclaimer says that there was something wrong with the church and its leader, the media had the story but not fully since there was secrecy with Jim Jones but the man himself never finds a way to explain, to counter-attack those ugly claims. He just appears talking about his spiritual program is good and there's preaching about the evils of media people; or bits where he's being tender to animals (or trying hard as well, I mean, that goat was really terrified of him to the point of running away from him. I had seen that same image in another documentary).
On a final analysis, "People's Temple" serves a purpose to instigate viewers in trying to imagine alternative realities to those poor folks. Seeing what we saw and knowing about the reality of cults, televangelists and similars in the years that followed, can we really predict that those jolly happy folks praying to God and devoting themselves to a cause they find as beautiful and a salvation for that community would it end the way it ended? How deep are the lens that captured the essence of those people and does it reveal a truth underneath of people being coerced to do things they didn't want or they were actually happy to be there? It's all room for conjectures, that's why the movie works in a way. But for the most part, if this were to be considered as a case for Jones defense, then it's a near disaster that didn't cleared the man of anything wrong - we know about spankings, abuse, drug use and Jonestown's White Nights which consisted in waking people in the middle of the night almost as an army drill exercise where the group members were to simulate a mass suicide. He just couldn't be trusted and the images speak volumes. 5/10
The Front Runner (2018)
Hugh Jackman is brilliant. But the movie's bad timing may alienate some viewers
"The Front Runner" is one of those movies where you ask yourself the difference between being a relevant picture for its era or if it's a sad case of
bad timing for audiences to fully understand it. I'll go with the latter since there is relevance to the areas covered in it, and we aren't so distant from the
events surroundings Gary Hart's downfall as a potentital future president of the United States.
It's also completely in time when you see what came after him in politics whether occupying chambers of congress, or minor legislative jobs but also as president of nation - clear example is when we hear about Donald Trump's past conducts by involving himself with strippers and paying lawyers to cover them up. It's like the usual tendency. But somehow, that wasn't the tendency in the 1980's during Hart's campaign for the Democrats when news broke out that he was having an alleged extramarital affair with Donna Rice. He was leading the polls, and it was all a matter of getting the nomination in a matter of few months, maybe weeks and then...comes the case, he drops out of the race. And that's exactly the movie you're going to see and one may feel frustrated, or even disoriented due to change of times.
Had been this movie done during the Clinton era, I guess people would understand it better, and the impeachment would probably come. My guess is that Hollywood only touched this topic now due to the debauchery that goes on lately when it comes to sexual relations and power; and also because of reasons concerning politics (then liberal; now conservative - it goes to show you condemn actions when others are doing). And by the 1990's attacking Clinton was only interesting when you were making spoofs or brainy comedies such as "Wag the Dog" or "Primary Colors". Those movies worked perfectly, they attacked the issue and they fit its time. Those are valuable lessons on how you make a film that can deliver a message, represent its era and become important.
On the long run, "The Front Runner" won't have that future. It's too contrived for getting a higher praise other than Hugh Jackman's masterful performance and an accurate portrayal of Washington, the media and the politics. When Jason Reitman's film was making its way to present Hart's campaign winning and conquering the voters the movie was amazing since you get the feeling that that man was embracing new ideas, he was a change in the political game and could be the best options for his party against heavyweights that were too moderate, part of an old gear. J.K. Simmons as the campaign manager steals the movie either with dramatic insights or hilarious punchliners.
Then comes the media intrusion wanting to know about Gary's stance if he's a womanizer or not and you can always sense that he always chokes when he's about to answer - specially during many press conferences since he's next to his wife (Vera Farmiga), who understand he has to sugarcoat the media and voters but she knows there was trouble in paradise and their marriage wasn't all that strong...because of him. The nuanced climbing of events surrounding the "scandal" (and I'm putting the word in quotes because honestly, it's not. As I said, it's the times we live in) was nicely done, very suspenseful where you can all kinds of media jackals waiting for their prey, hunting down day and night waiting to get a shot of the girl or demanding a response from the candidate. It's after that part, when the film and the characters starts to point out ethics, morals, and we don't have much of a reasoning behind Hart's decision to not answer anything that the movie faults and since that it's going nowhere anymore...you just sit and wait for his ultimate known ending. But we still have Jackman to deliver the good not just with his characterization of Hart but also as a man with an inner conflict that he throws the issue in audiences: tell the truth to the public, continue with the campaign and see what happens; to lie, continue the campaign and see what happens; or the decision he actually done - which to me served no purpose except maybe protect his family).
I think that the ultimate goal a movie like "The Front Runner" can deliver for viewers and future voters as well is to think about how much of an issue is when a candidate has a slip with their spouse is important for him or she become a good president or publical servant. We question values time and again, and much of a big chunk of a man's private life (even though a public person) must stay private but to me that rule is only valid when's the candidate hasn't taken office; after that he or she must consider the position to accept that held and defend, our most urgent interests and give the image they sold us during campaign. Hart was a victim, we won't know exactly to what extent but seeing what goes on lately - not just U.S., it's everywhere - we wonder how hypocritical our society was back in a different time. 8/10
A Viagem (1994)
A knockout journey
25 years ago there was this haunting soap-opera named "A Viagem" that got a huge audience despite being outside of the prime time schedule while the usual
series of that slot end up being a failure. Back then I was an impressive kid who grew up only to remember the scenes where one of the main characters was trapped
in hell. There was all I could remember and it was a traumatic experience though I can't remember if I watched the whole thing. Cut to 2018/2019 period, I went
through lots of life changes where I was asking myself questions and matters of life, death, mortality and after-life and the memories of such series made me
curious in getting the full scope and understanding what it was all about. Trouble was that as a film addict I always had a trouble in watching soap-operas (yes,
I grew up with them, and this was the very first of which I had childhood memories but as I grew up I couldn't stand the format, the lact of artistry, message and
technical aspects, so I avoided them when I got to know more about movies and their qualities). However, I'm not sure if it's a matter of chance or a magnet from
spiritual worlds that brought me back to it and now I'm here to praise this spectacle that changed many people's lives and conquered a whole generation. It was my
first soap back in 1994 and it was my very first from beginning to end in the 21st Century - sort of run, cos the re-run's usually cut something out. No regrets!
"A Viagem" ("The Journey") revolves around Spiritsm and Allan Kardec's teachings on the matter yet that's a secondary issue on the series that takes some time to develop. The Journey (or trip, some could say) is the transition a person makes as of getting out of their earthly life to go to another dimmension being heaven, hell or as presented in the show "the suicidal valley", which is where I got traumatized when I was little. 200 episodes so it'll be hard to present a summary but I'll try: Alexandre (Guilherme Fontes) is caught stealing money from his company and accidentally kills the only witness of the event; then he goes to jail sentenced to 19 years which seems a burden to him and there he commits suicide. But not before declaring revenge on those who put him in such situation like his own brother, his brother-in-law and Otávio Jordão (Antonio Fagundes), a lawyer friend of the victim who was decisive in Alexandre's conviction - and that was one of the toppest lawyers ever to the point where Alexandre's sister Dinah (Christiane Torloni) asked for his services to help her brother. From there, the story gets in two ways: where we follow the living folks with an unusual twist of events where Dinah and Otávio go from mortal enemies to the most loving couple in the world; and Alexandre's revenge on his enemies or relatives even though he's dead. There are lots of characters, divisions between rich and poor segments but the main connection in between and the one who makes the differnce is the omnipresent Dr. Alberto (Cláudio Cavalcanti), who devotes his time not only healing people's bodies and health but also conducts meetings at his home devoted to Spiritism, and he's the one who is capable of helping Dinah, Otávio and others from Alexandre's bad influence and also to give him some guidance towards forgiveness and compassion in order to evolve as a spirit and possibly future human.
With a religion, which is or not having any, "A Viagm" appeals to all kinds of audiences due its concern in presenting all variations of faith, religion, creeds or neither of them - even its main focus is Kardec's teaching which makes us evaluate things in non preachy way, it's quite didatic yet valid so you can later on make your search on the topic. The fight between good vs. evil is compelling and frightening one, not only Alexandre's ways of revenge (it all goes on layered deals until he claim his first solid victim...or his attacks on his brother-in-law, Téo - played by Maurício Mattar - who is constantly possesed and the current generation of viewers gave to that fact is some being Alexandrado, or the be in the possession of an evil spirit); but also the battles that are fought by the earthly people. Alexandre is spooky, but Ismael (played by a frightening and terrif Jonas Bloch) is the most malignant villain of all, a pure evil guy who takes away his daughter for her loving mother (Lucinha Lins) after he become absent for years while committing all sorts of crimes - with that comparison all the trouble goes to Dr. Alberto who prays for Alexandre's evoultion and tries to prevent Ismael's influence on his wife and kid.
All good performances from the cast but the highgliths goes to all the mentioned names; Andréa Beltrão as Lisa (Alxandre's ex; Téo's future girlfriend); Ary Fontoura, Nair Bello, Lolita Rodrigues; and the show introduced me to veterans Tânia Scher, Leonardo José, Lafayette Galvão; or newcomers such as Eduardo Felipe, Irving São Paulo and Kiko Mascarenhas. It isn't all tragedy, fights, jealousy; there's some room for love, tender moments and the happy village where everyone hasn't got a dime but they find their way to happiness. Worthy of mention the soundtrack which the classic main theme, and other ones who became hits in 1994 - most of them I started to enjoy more after becoming recurring themes in here. The show makes all the rights turns, plot twists and as usual with soap, all gets good in the ending (though I was deeply disappointed with Mascarado's fate - he's a faceless man who uses of a mask and funny clothes to charm the village with acts of kindness and charity work).
The deeper thoughts are destined to understand what the journey means, if we'll believe in it or not, and how our transition goes from souls and bodies - it's almost like a softened version of "Cloud Atlas" (which by the way was translated as "A Viagem" in here). I don't have much a take about it, but as long as kept seeing the characters transitions I started to think more about what I do in life, the acts, hearts and minds I can transform as long as I'm this current journey. 10/10
Spray Jet (1986)
A fine short about Brazil's "80's Generation" insights about their art
Art enthusiasts will find in "Spray Jet" a nice short film about plastic arts in the 1980's whose young artists got their breakthorugh with great works that
weren't pretentious or fully conceptual. Here in Brazil, in between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, those artists were known as the 80's generation. This precious
gem stars three of important names of such group all based in São Paulo - the late Leonilson (1957-1993), Leda Catunda and Ciro Cozzolino, who all share their
views about their views on art and what they produce and paint, and the possible future for their projects.
The film's title is slightly misleading except for the introduction where we see young street artists spraying on a wall until the police arrives and arrest one of them. It just goes to show the current street art scene (which was the graffitti painted on walls or buildings) but that topic isn't brought up by the artists. It's only that sequence and the main song written by Lobão and Bernardo Vilhena that gives such notion. Leonilson, Leda and Cozzolino were all part of the 80's Generation - a group of young plastic artists from Rio and São Paulo who had similar aesthetics, ideas and perceptions while trying to break up with the conceptual art forms of the 1970; it was a new generation that managed to present their works, paintings, fabrics, and succeed with that all the way through the early 1990's.
The trio talk about their works and their take on art and what it means to them. As evidenced by another documentary I watcher afterwards, Leonilson definitely deserves his self-acclaimed title as "The most well-known". Of the trio, he's the one who presents the most interesting insights, views and opinions about what he does with his art, the future of it and at a such young age he really know what goes on when it comes to artistic presentations and its importance to viewers. But at the end they all reveal their work, a collaborative and inspired gathering of their own paitings.
On personal levels I liked "Spray Jet" because it showed me a variation of things I haven't heard or knew about it and it was magnificent. São Paulo art scene in the 1980's, bright, vivid, real and colorful and filled with diversity from genders, races and sexuality all exposing what they had in their inner self or reflecting life as it was. Since this is a short film and just presents a brief view about what the then current art was to then, I'll recommend "A Paixão de JL" and "Leonilson, sob o Peso dos Meus Amores" which are foccused on Leonilson's works, life and death, and with those films you can get a wider scope about his importance on that scenery, and how the plastic works were perceived and praised by its contemporaries. I'd like to see films about Leda Catunda and Ciro Cozzolino as well but so far, all the register from that time comes from film and another short film that vanished from view and doesn't even have a credit here.
On a final analyses their art hasn't died, many followed their paths and art has become more accessible to people not just because it's everywhere but simply because in that group case they were completely pretentious; they reflected what they saw and what they lived. As for the graffitti, on a personal level, it's only art when there's more than just a strange form/pattern of imaginative "hand writing"; it has to show images, messages, some concept or even some homage to other form of arts. To spray "guy loves some girl" is idiotic - romantic for the couple though - or just put some signature everywhere goes the same way but protesting against social/political injustices or sharing thoughts are all welcome because that kind of work grow on you, makes you think and analyze not just the message but how it is conveyed. Life is art, art is life. 9/10
Dark humor at its best but...there's controversy along the way
Here's a dark humored story stripped of any political correctness that can only appeal to people who don't get offended easily; people who understand cinema and art; or the
ones who a similar frame of mind as the lead character Mojo. "Manual para Atropelar Cachorros" ("A Guide to Run Over Dogs") introduces a video store clerk (Rafael
Primot) who leads a life of complete alienation while hating his job, falling in love with co-worker (Barbara Paz); but his sense of humanity gets lost due to his
loneliness, contempt with the boring life he has and feeling trapped without other alternatives except drinking and hokking up with prostitutes. His real sense of
relief is to get his car to hit and kill dogs. Yes, I said that. Here's a guy whose ultimate feeling of superior power is to hit dogs. The weird thing is not the act
itself but it's that there isn't a "deeper" reasoning for it since he owns and likes dogs but when he's out of control he rides at night searching for dogs to kill.
And there's a whole thing revolving around dogs, prostitutes and the girl he likes that are all linked in his head (I won't use the word but there's an equal term
he describes all of those mentioned figures).
Writer, director and lead actor of this short film made a highly controversial film that shoots its fire to everyone, from animal lovers to different races and sexual genders even though the main character always seem to apologize or make things lightly right after saying a negative remark about anyone different than him - once you live alienated you become like him in several ways, it's me vs. them. There's a moment when he's driving at night which echoes and spoofs of "Taxi Driver" with Mojo being an updated version of Travis Bickle coping with his hatred and loneliness with a jazzy soundtrack in the background. By that time, after seeing weird moments after another that I got some sense of humor that was actually funny.
Despite the title and what it has to show, don't feel worried. There's no display of animal cruelty, those sequences are presented in animated sequences as if coming from a comic book - frame shots and sounds. Besides the humor, the darkness and some sense of realism (that kind of thing happens but we take it for nothing but cruelty), here's a short film that works as an amalgam for outsiders, outcast people who tried their best to provide something good to the world but since they haven't got nothing in exchange, feeling about their current pointless situation that they decide to go to extremes to feel a little less worthless. In Mojo's situation was the extreme of being a pet serial killer. As ethical human beings we definitely know he is repulsive and one could say the movie has nothing to offer. Oh it has. It shows a variation of life in a strange fashion but one that can be understood, and there's humored bits specially when he's working at the video store and has crazy dreams at the same time he forgets to deal with customers - which includes a cameo from famed film critic Rubens Ewald Filho as an irate costumer who keeps asking Mojo if he's gonna take his order or not. Hysterical. 8/10
I'd like to dedicate this review to Rubens - who passed away yesterday- a great film critic and my first reference in knowing what a film critic is and his constant presence on TV, awards coverage and written reviews. Without him, I wouldn't be here writing about this movie (which I just discovered) and many others in previous years. More than just a film critic, he also wrote books, TV series, acted in some films and even directed plays. I've had a brief encounter with him and it was truly great, he was nice and humble, hard qualities to find on people in show business. Be at peace, monsieur!
A Missa do Galo (1982)
Intriguing and amusing just as Machado de Assis works
Machado de Assis is a writer whose works either being novels or short stories are all foccused on subtle movements and details, and also for being
artistic and complex works that is more concerned in providing more questions to readers than actually giving some form of answer. That's a fact that can
anger readers or it can make them more intrigued - this device is more present in the novels rather than in the short stories. In "A Missa do Galo"
("Rooster's Mass") everything looks so simple yet it is quite intimidating, subtle, mysterious to the point of making you anxious in knowing what's the real
deal and what's gonna happen next. I haven't read the short, only got a brief description about the plot which sort of ruined my view from this short film...
but in a way it was better that this happened because it made the film more accessible and I could compare both medias based on the informations I had and
what the film presented.
Nelson Pereira dos Santos'film adaptation of the tale has the same basis but it goes in a different way. The teeange Nogueira (Olney São Paulo Jr.) is a country boy visiting his uncle (Nildo Parente) in Brazil's capital during Christmas time. His most expected event of the evening is to watch the mass of which he believes it'll be a spectacular event compared to what he had seen back in his hometown. The movie opens with those characters, along with with the uncle's wife Conceição (Isabel Ribeiro), her mother (Elza Gomes) and a friend of the family (Sergio Otero) who got promoted to work with the uncle. Dinner's over and the master of the house decides to go to the theater on Christmas Eve - quite strange and others get suspicious but as Conceição's mother tells her the man isn't going there, he's gonna visit a mistress.
Everyone's gone from the room except for Nogueira, who anxiously awaits for the midnight hour to go to the mass. He's all alone just reading his book when he is joined by the uncle's wife who is sleepless. That's the core of the film: their lone company in the room which goes from conversations on literature, dreams and what appears to be an incredible sense of desire and love they try to show to one another; there's something in the air they can't exactly quite put their finger on it. Santos film removes the narrator's figure (which is Nogueira as an older man telling about an event from his youth) and makes it all more mysterious in making the audience think what's the real intentions of the main characters. Machado would be proud of this film, and I think he would say it was an improvement from what he wrote since in a final analysis, despite being different medias, the way each artist worked the effect was the same in creating some suspense, some tenderness, presenting a plot twist (it revolves around other character, I won't spoil for you) and at the end we're both asking ourselves about the possibilities and outcomes of that lovely encounter in between aunt and nephew. And bear in mind that the ultimate goal is conquered but the surprise along the way is what changes Nogueira's life and his view of people and the world.
"A Missa do Galo" is also worthy seeing due to its impecable art-direction recreating the early 1890's with great precision despite being a minor production filmed in just one location (and for 1980's standards is really impressive) and the amazing acting of main stars Isabel Ribeiro and the young Olney São Paulo Jr. - who vanished from screen after this, a pity since he had a very captivating and spiritual presence, playing this confident and bright teen, very eloquent and wise for someone with a tender age. Both actors chemistry is fantastic, very delighful and filled with nuances and subtle moves and gestures from the words they say or the things they don't say which makes us imagine what goes on through their heads...but their faces reveal a lot more to the point of leaving viewers anxious for their next act. A fine piece of filmmaking. 9/10
Wilsinho Galiléia (1978)
A very thoughtful report that almost vanished from view
João Batista de Andrade's documentary on infamous and dangerous criminal Wilsinho Galiléia is a true finding that managed to survive time and become
one of the greatest films ever made in Brazil. It was a TV project for TV in one of many episodes of Globo Repórter - for those who know the show, it was
a lot different back in its first years since it allowed a combination of journalism with re-enactments by actors instead of the usual nature/health/social
issues topics of our current days, all beautifully filmed and without acting. One broadcast was enough for the military regime confiscate the film and block subsequential views due to its violent nature and its criticism that authorities either were doing anything effective to catch the guy or when they did it was
a whole set up that brutally murdered him instead of arresting him - and this was back when the system was slowly rehearsing a return to democracy. It was ressurected in the early 2000's (can't remember if a
copy was found by the director or was one was found hidden somewhere; all I know is that many critics hailed it as a masterpiece, a hidden gem that could
stand on the same level as many feature films or documentaries that received major releases).
Wilsinho Galiléia was a young cruel murderous car theft that was extremely brutal to his victims. As mentioned earlier, the documentary mixes real actors with testimonies from people who knew the 18 year-old criminal - like neighbours and members of his family (mother and brothers) - and re-enactments of his crimes with actors: Galiléia is played by Paulo Eudes (a weird casting since the actor looks like a 30 year-old then a 18 year-old). And it was filmed on a cinema-verité style that seems highly factual through the whole time because the acting feels convincing for most of the time; though some of the family's testimonies seems staged at times - so it's like the fiction became facts and the facts became fiction. Interesting fusion.
Andrade's film is a tragic trip to the memory lane of a different era and a reminder that the criminal types were few compared with today, they always had their minutes of fame but always paid some price. It reflects about not just issues of criminality, methods of murder, it's also an extended look on poverty and how it all affects - in some cases - the outcome of one person become marginalized. Wilsinho's mother was a figure worthy of pity. Taking care of five boys along, working hard to provide the best she could and with the resources she had and then...seeing one by one become criminals, murderers, jailed either in juvenile facilities or later on prisons. The horror and tragedy of wasted lives, not just that family, but specially their victims who were robbed and deprived of their lives just because the weak social/economical situation of an angry majority is a key factor for the violence a more fortunatue minority suffered. Never a justification, it's always a thought on how things really are. Powerful film. 9/10
Pixote, in memorian (2007)
Remembering Fernando Ramos da Silva
"Pixote, A Lei do Mais Fraco" is one of the greatest Brazilian films ever made and a true classic that crossed barriers that conquered audiences all around
the world, getting widespread acclaim in between critics and awards as well - a Golden Globe nomination as Best Foreign Film was its highest peak - and
providing director Hector Babenco with a career in Hollywood with films such as "Kiss of the Spider Woman", "Ironweed" (both received Oscar nominations and
William Hurt won an Oscar for the first film). What "Pixote" also gave us was a group of non-professional young actors in the major roles acting next to
veterans like Marília Pêra, Jardel Filho and Rubens de Falco; and among those young talents there was Fernando Ramos da Silva playing the leading role of
a street kid involved in all sorts of crimes and violent acts. Ramos was a poor kid, so he merely had to recreate things he witnessed, how his life were back
in the slums of Diadema but he also got some training to become a great performer. Sadly, after the film he was typecast for criminal roles, and only appeared in handful of
films in minor roles and one soap-opera, later on quitting acting and returning to a life of crimes that ultimately claimed his life at age 19 during a
shootout with the police.
20 years after his death, "Pixote, In Memoriam" pays a tribute to Fernando, his involvement with the film and also about his tragic last years. Interviews with Babenco, major cast members and even the other three kids - who lived in similar conditions as Fernando - appear in the film (to me, it was the most fascinating aspect of the film even though only the performer of Lilica kept acting on plays while the other two were still living in poverty, but with honest jobs. The encounter between the two was really tearful); and there's also the presence of world fans of "Pixote" such as Spike Lee, Julian Schnabel and Nick Cave - who ] dedicated one of his albums to Fernando. All thoughtufl testimonies and interesting tellings about Babenco's casting process and how Fernando was cast, initially turned down but he managed to conquer Babenco and his casting directors to its impressive eyes and expressions.
This is more about the legacy and the sad ending of Ramos da Silva; this is about a reflection and an examination on how life imitates art and vice-versa. Here we had a child that lived on poverty, didn't have much opportunities in life then one knocked on his door - though playing an initially innocent child that turns into a life of crimes - he succeeds with it but life closed the doors on him after just offering the same kinds of roles when one wants to escape a reality he already lives each day; and he also lost interest in acting, quit studying and performing in community plays and then...he's robbing again. The question one may asks is what kind of turn Fernando could have give to his life? To accept the roles he was offered and see if they'll change? To insist in a career he loved and push harder in order to get different roles? Or one is condemned for life to never get out from one's past? His ultimate death proved the latter but with worst consequences.
We'll always remember him fondly, for his true nature, fine acting and great with improvisations. In the most Neo-Realist classic of Brazilian cinema, it's that final image of him walking down the train tracks that will always stick in our minds.
A Causa Secreta (1994)
The indifference of the human condition
Humanity and decency should be what could make us being the better version of ourselves. To have compassion, to be capable of acts of love, sharing, providing for the less fortunate ones, to care about those in pain, suffering or those without having the proper means to sustain their lives. But the more the eras and decades go by, we become more and more careless, becoming more and more indifferent to human suffering by closing ourselves in our little
worlds. It's the era of immediatism, the era of intolerance and the struggle of social/economical classes; or worst: the era in we feel pleasure with other
people's tragedy. From pre-historical times to Biblical times and going to possible 200 years road ahead, the story was always the same. Written in the late
1800's by famed author Machado de Assis the short story "A Causa Secreta" presents the torments, the lack of decency and morality of a small group of
characters who go through an 180-degree in their lives while going from being helpful towards one another to later discover they're capable of acts of
cruelty from which they obtain some form of pleasure.
A brief summary from the short story which has its way to become the movie: a medicine student helps out an injured man and they become friends. Both happen to be medical doctors and they join forces to build a clinic. All is fine until the latter presents his wife to his new friend, who falls in love for the woman but only happens to a higher degree when she is revealed to be sick. The injured man turned friend is revealed to be someone who is helpful towards people yet he's also a sadistic man who finds some fulfillment while torturing a poor rat - such fact is seen by his savior. And that is "A Causa Secreta" ("The Secret Cause").
Sérgio Bianchi's film revolves around the short story but goes a little further in adapting the story to the 1990's reality (not much different from our current era). In it, a theatre director (Renato Borghi) decides to make a play based on that story but this time only using the foundations of it, without having a script and asking for his actors to make researches everywhere in order to consolidate an artistic treaty on the human condition and its indifference towards each other. The three leading actors from the play are played by José Rubens Chachá (as the medicine student Garcia), Cláudia Mello (as Maria Luisa) and Rodrigo Santiago (as Fortunato, the sadistic doctor). The other members of the play are background actors; an annoying female art-director and a young property master (Alexandre Patersnot) - the latter being an object of desire from the latter character and from Cláudio (who plays Fortunato).
The story's core comes the laborary experiences faced by the whole theatre group - which also includes the director's incursion in trying to get the play's budget from bureacratic officials in the government. Meanwhile, the actors visit a hospital; an AIDS homecare built for those who don't have access to a better health care; an animal institute; and conversation in between themselves about class struggle, poverty, misery at the same time when it seems that they care about those issues they ignore when it happens in front of them: like when the director sees a man hitting a dog he yells about how mankind turned into a careless place but he's the one who is sarcastically rooting the man without going there to do stop the act; or at the same time poor children ask for food or money to eat, all the actors avoid them. The more the research evolves, the more the group distant themselves from each other with fights after fights and disastrous rehearsals and improvisations.
Now, here's a movie that could be a brilliant, great piece of filmmaking but it only becomes good due to some erratic choices with either the casting or the acting itself from some actors. Most of them overreact, too noisy and I couldn't care about because they were trying to be too passionate about a cause their characters were defending but it all sounded strange. The only ones who made the movie interesting were Rodrigo Santiago, who steals the show as being the most observing of the actors troupe and little by little, he becomes exactly like the character in the play (the scene with the rat is unwatchable. Necessary for the film's development though); and Alexandre Patersnot on his film debut - his character goes through lots of painful ordeals yet he's not an actor in the play; but he's the one who goes through more experiences to become part of the play and one who's only interested in doing his job.
As for the screenplay I think it is one of the finest in Brazilian cinema. It has moments of satire, intertwines its storyline with a dark short story, it has moments of drama and comedy but it's all tragedy. As for the movie's speech it may falter a little bit with some audiences since it may look as if the film isn't revealing anything new about the dark side of the human condition. It opens and almost closes with the very same image that is reflected on the play/short story but with different contexts. All we know is that people just don't care. And why should they? Human decency was made for people with a conscience and that theatre group didn't have any. So how they could succeed in making such a story to get applauded by an audience? "The Secret Cause" is not for the faint of heart or those who avoid in dealing with social issues and the disparity caused by men's cruelty and ignorance. Thoughtful viewers enjoy it and find ways to discuss it afterwards. 8/10
Faca de Dois Gumes (1989)
Criminally underrated and underseen
More experienced viewers won't find much enjoyment or surprises in something like "Faca de Dois Gumes" ("Two Edged Knife"), it feels like something you
have seen done time and again in countless cheap or even better films than this one. But this one always stuck in my mind as one of the most efficient and
thrilling suspense films ever made in Brazil - specially in a time where the Brazilian was at the brink of collapse. After years trying to find it, I finally got another watch
and it was a lot better than what I had remembered. In its second film, Murillo Salles turns
this adaptation of Fernando Sabino's novel into a spectacle that is almost flawless, edgy and well-acted by the whole cast. You will be glued to the chair, sofa
or bed for a long ride that I can assure you, it can beat any Hollywood flick with a similar theme.
The outstanding Paulo José gives another incredible performance, this time as the wealthy lawyer Jorge Bragança, happily married with Vera (Ursula Canto) and living with Cuca (Pedro Vasconcelos), his son and her rebelious stepson. The first turn of events comes when Jorge's business partner at the law firm (Flávio Galvão) arranges him a trip to São Paulo - to later find out the idea is keep him away while he can have an affair with Jorge's wife. An enraged husband would do the obvious, in what old days used to defend his honor: catch them both on bed, kill them and get away with murder. He plans all carefully, succeeds it inventing a robbery but... as complicated plots tend to go he won't have has way because of a) a suspicious detective (José de Abreu, brilliant) is on his way; b) the business partner vanished with a large sum of dollars from dangerous people and they think Jorge has it - so the threat goes back to him; and c) the partner's wife (Marieta Severo) is also receiving threats from those guys and her important rich father (José Lewgoy) doesn't seem to care all that much. To make matters worse it all comes down Jorge needs to get a money he didn't it existed and avoid his son gets involved in such deep waters...which is almost impossible.
What gets me the most is the inner conflict faced by Paulo José's character. He doesn't strike me as the murderous type; it's an impulse, an urge that has to be fulfilled yet he's completely brilliant in doing the killings, no mistakes made and even had alibis for it (though there were some flaws on the way, maybe a script problem.); then he manages to fool the authorities but he fails to plan better his next moves when all goes downhill and he's up against a wall that he cannot climb or find holes to crawl in. But you can sense his torment, his anguish in trying to run against time to solve everything and get away alive and not risk anyone's lives. Gotta love those stories. I felt immersed through it all though after two views I cannot buy the very final scene - it feels half baked. A nice plot twist but far from real, it might upset viewers who went through a rollercoaster of emotions, kidnappings, threats, body counts and then...I won't reveal it. And there was some other resolution that never came and I was let down a little - won't complain much about it because that one felt realistic. However, through the whole experience you won't feel bored, cheated or not impressed. It's heart-pounding, not one wasted moment and it's something to be seen.
As I said, Paulo José makes the film an outstanding piece but gotta say that everyone involved was truly fascinating, without any false note. But I gotta praise the young Pedro Vasconcelos as the rebel/smart Cuca in his very first and only film acting (to date). I remember him from many TV series/miniseries (most notably "O Portador" where he played a drug addict) and he always plays good troublemakers. There's something about him you can't forget him - yes, he goes through a lot of pain in this one - and for a young actor he was truly good. I recently discovered that he doesn't act anymore but he turned out to be a TV director managing many series for TV Globo. His scenes were the most thrilling to see; along with the ones from José Lewgoy, the eternal villain from the 1950's films. He looks frail but always exhales plenty of power and disdain. Abreu as the detective was a delight to see, almost in a funny way but never in an over-the-top way...it was the right measure.
Salles direction and editing were quite balanced; I just found the music quite intrusive at times and unfitting. But he assembled an excellent group of actors, got himself a high quality script that even when it misses the mark you don't feel completely bothered. As for Jorge's revenge and plot, it makes the viewer wonder: was it all worth it? It's more than just a thriller; it's a thought-provoking work, and those hardly ever fail. 10/10
Bexiga, Ano Zero (1971)
A not much nostalgic way to look at the important. But there's evolution
A traditional Italo-Brazilian neighborhood Bexiga, along with Belém, Brás and Mooca, was an important industrial place that in the earliest years of
20th Century attracted many businesses, an united community and was highly regarded back in those days. Lately, it's the place best remembered for having
the best pizza joints of São Paulo. But in the late 1960's and throught out the 1970's Bexiga has fallen down when its most influent residents moved to better
places, a government crisis that closed down many companies and what was left was a poor neighborhood, with empty spaces later occupied by poor or homeless
people. "Bexiga, Ano Zero" ("Bexiga, Year Zero") brings back (briefly) the importance it had in São Paulo's economy, its evolution and then sad downfall. And
as I usually like to do, an update: it's no longer a decadent place as it used to be but it's far from being what used to be in its inception: a place that
welcome jobs, nice housing places and a place where neighbors and kids got together to have nice chats on the street and play all the time they wanted.
Despite mentioning about economical and political crisis of its then era (1970's), those films were comissioned by the government itself, yes, the military regime. By those films I mean a trilogy designed to present three neighborhoods depicted in a famous 1930's short stories collection composed by António de Alcântara Machado named "Brás, Bexiga and Barra Funda" (the latter place, if it has a short film made I wasn't available to find. I wrote about "Brás"). And I've found "Bexiga, Year Zero" really sadder and depressive than Brás because unlike that place, Bexiga was downtrodden, emptied out almost like a ghost city while Brás has become a overcrowded place that still offered places to live, plenty of jobs to provide to people from all over the country - lately, even foreigners had small businesses in there. It's a mess to walk and live there but it has something to offer. Bexiga - though I don't know all that much - took some awful time to regain momentum and become a nice place to live or go visit. Seeing those abandoned houses, all objects left or shattered, and people going through those houses and buildings was just a sad reminder of a time when things were at its worst. But that's Brazil, progress and disintegration come hand and hand from time to time. Those are hard times for everyone and that kind of view is most likely to happen whatever place whether being in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro or elsewhere...but we'll overcome. Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it...that's the lesson I could get from this documentary. It's not a film to like. It's a film to remember the values and life we used to have when communities are united despite its differences, how things can all fall down if we don't take a proper care or if we have the support our powers of be. Watch and learn. 7/10
Rua São Bento, 405 (1976)
The rise and (slightly) fall of the Martinelli Building
Ugo Giorgetti's "Rua São Bento, 405" is a lot more than an important and special cultural point of São Paulo's downtown, the heart of the city: it reveals about what is
located on that street, the Martinelli building, Brazil's first skyscraper and one of the tallest ones in South America for a long time - it has been surpassed over
the years but still remains as one of the most fascinating and most beautiful cultural buildings in São Paulo. It's architecture is jawwdropping considering its time.
However, Giorgetti's film is more about a downer phase of the place than its huge importance when of its construction in the 1930's.
One of its owners/designers Ítalo Martinelli briefly appears to reflect about the buildings real intention as having a commercial/banks and stuff and also as the Martinelli's family residence at the very top - and even included other tenants who had some form of high means to live there. But came the 1970's and the city infrastruture and economical crisis forced the government to take over the building and evict its tenants - and by that time, the place wasn't occupied by the wealthy industrials and the banks of São Paulo; they moved to higher and better places. Who stayed there then? It only had people who barely had means to be there but somehow they got there, one can almost say Martinelli building has become a place that was invaded. We have the time to see those folks share their stories, their ways of means without having a proper care since the location was at its worst level.
I don't have much of an opinion on why one should see this movie or not except for curious facts about São Paulo's decade and the poor level that cultural landmark got to; but as an update: the place is still there, it can be visited by anyone during exhibits sponsored by a bank so you go all the way to the top and the see the whole landscape of the city downtown from Paulista Avenue spots to the Sé Square and other places (I used to work near the building, right around the corner but as of 2019, I still haven't find the time to go all the way up...and that's a thrilling view as I could glimpse from a magazine some years ago since it was recently re-opened. It went through some hard times, it took some private investments to save it from being another important place that went downhill (the most famous example here was a huge apartment complex nicknamed Treme Treme, along the line of "Shake Shake", which was so poorly cared over the years that city hall decided to take it down and demolish for good).
Giorgetti is probably the most significant directors to capture São Paulo and its places either doing documentaries or feature films such as "Sábado". He covers with detail the façades of the building and its then decadent interiors. For the curious of hearts in seeing a special location of the city, even though it wasn't on its best ways. 7/10
An insight on Brás
António de Alcântara Machado wrote a remarkable book called "Brás, Bexiga e Barra Funda" which dealt with those three important places in São Paulo during
the Italian immigration in the early 1900's, some real stories about how people evolved in those places and some funny anedocted as well. In the 1970's the state's
government comissioned short films about those exact places in their current state (1970's); and of those I could only find two, the one from Barra Funda I can't
say if it was made or not. "Brás, narrated by the great late actor Armando Bógus was the best of its kind and the one I can evaluate better since it's a place
I know best and live near (as of now). It tells about its early promising beginnings and the then striking evolution.
Like many major places in São Paulo's downtown, Brás was founded by Italian immigrants in the early 20th century where they brought industries and business that are still present there today - thought not completely in works. Fabrics, steel work and food industry all came from them and the place flourished as one of the best places to create business and find work. By the late 1960's, with many administration changes and government crisis here and there Brás wasn't so appealing to its founders - already established in other places - so, what's left was plenty of abandoned places and the ones who resisted had to count with labor force coming from other Brazilians coming from the Northeast, all people desperate to find a new way of life outside their home. They flocked by the thousands and went on to work on construction sites or the same jobs already existing; difference being that they lived in poor conditions or places they could afford since the price for living there were really cheap - but the old constructions such as the Matarazzo's industries were still there, though not operating fully due to a family dispute when the old baron has died (the film doesn't mention them, I'm just mentioning so you can form a wider view of how places like Brás, Belém had disintegrated very fast). But as the movie states, the outsiders from other states found their way, got their underpaid jobs and managed to keep their culture and traditions thorough parties and events located near Brás train station.
And Brás is a place that always keeps on changing. For the past years, the new arrivals and workers consists of African refugees and other poor Brazilian who sell clothes, objects and stuff occupying whole sidewalks and corners, and everyone who wants to buy things for a cheap price must come down there and face the crowd - which is huge to the point is barely possible to walk down there. So, why this movie is important to me? I got a glimpse of what was the idealist past; then move to a different reality that seems close to the current one and see how some things never change through the years. Obviously the nostalgia factor also hits me in seeing Brás at a time I haven't live and comparing it to how it is now it changed very little: the old constructions are still there; the train station is a matter of shame as being one of the most busiest ever (scary walking around there; the movement never stops) but the multitude of cultures, languages and works never change. I guess one can say Alcântara Machado would feel completely lost with the current Brás (or even Bexiga as well, which got downhill over the years) and probably would write something less humurous than his famous short stories collection. 9/10
Campos Eliseos (1973)
Rise and fall of Campos Eliseos
"Campos Elíseos" presents the rise and fall of one of the most important places in downtown São Paulo. It started as a cosmopolitan place in the early
20th century, merging a large place (currently it's divided in several parts ranging from four or more neighborhoods) composed by Italian immigrants or wealthy
families and there were several of important locations such as this huge church located on Alameda Glete (still existing and very well conserved), big mansions
and historical points. But as São Paulo's population started to grew with the inclusion of migrants from all different states from Brazil the place lost its
charm and important to become a place where poverty, abandon, criminality and drugs became a main thing - by the 1970's it was known as Boca do Lixo ("Trash's Mouth")
and marginality took over - well, many Brazilian B movies from the late 60's and early 70's where filmed there and it reflected how life was in those bars, streets, brothels
That was then and this is now: a huge chunk of the Campos Elíseos is somewhat highly regarded, there are parts where there's development, fancy apartments and businesses though it still feels undervalued because the other side, there are slums and near the Luz train station has become one of the worst spots to be around: Cracolândia (Crackland) where hundreds of crack or other drug users are gathered in the surroundings of that train station and it's complete mayhem where one cannot walk along there at any hour because you're gonna get mugged or feel scared, fearing some possible threat. I used to work near there, taking a bus that crossed that place and it was a pitiful, frightening sight to see. And don't think for one second authorities and government can move one iota to move them out of there - when they did a couple of years ago, they gathered to a park near there and only caused more trouble with riots, bonfires and blocking streets. For a brief moment, there was a rehabilitation program from city hall to recover those addicts by giving them work and a shelter but few were the ones who accepted it.
For me seeing this film was an opportunity to glimpse a reality that despite being sadder than what Campos Elíseos really intended to be and was, it works as a nostalgic way to see São Paulo in a more organized fashion when criminality wasn't so rampant and it gives me a dreamy sensation that with investment and care things wouldn't become what it is today. Considering the addresses presented there I know that it isn't the whole place that got deteriorated, it's just a chunk; but São Paulo's idealist Champs Elysée (Campos Elíseos means that) never reached its full potential. One of the major points comes from a popular criminal from the place, a guy who knew everyone and everything about the place. He doesn't talk much about his own story (all rambling to me) but from a research I did, he was killed hit by a car in 1984 while trying to contain two friends who were fighting each other. Where did that happened? Right in those streets of Campos Elíseos. 8/10
Ashe '68 (2018)
Sports and Activism. Arthur Ashe's important legacy
1968. The year of the Vietnam era at its peak; MLK and RFK murders; black activism and then...comes this great man creating a mark not only in the world of
sports but also in breaking barriers when it comes to racial affairs in America. Tennis player Arthur Ashe became the first African-American to win the US Open
tennis championship in 1968, trailing a successful career in the following years (beating up Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon in 1975 was another highlight). But where's the feature film about it? Not done but there's this short film
which combines animation with real actors to present the events that led to Ashe's ascent - his past before the match and the match itself (though briefly
In terms of seeing what that moment meant to his career, being the only black man in a white man's club and how he never had thought of the black activism back in those early days, was fundamental in seeing his past; and then a brief moment of the match, he wins the game and things turn 180 degrees and now he's more than just a winner; he's a changed man who fought for the cause and in later years an even bigger cause - which isn't depicted in the film - as an AIDS actvist, creating a foundation with his name on it, after finding out he had the disease after a blood transfusion in the 1980's and AIDS claimed his life in 1993. What's important is that many black sportists, black artists or others Ashe was involved in the cause, cemented grounds against discrimination, not necessarily being in the battle front but being as someone who could inspire others like him to overcome their obstacles. He wasn't like O.J., who only made the name and fame but brought almost nothing to the table when it comes to a greater cause (as he said in one interview: "I'm not black, I'm O.J.".).
As for the short film, I think it should go longer and without the animated sequences; and the 1968 winning match should be the main event then focus on the importance on how it was to sports world and to the African-American community - if it was THAT important to them since baseball and basketball are sports were they are more favorable to see and appreciate. But in any case, Arthur Ashe was the one who paved the way for a higher inclusion in the tennis world. A legacy that needs to be remembered. 8/10
To indeed be adored
Don't we all? I guess so, we all want to be adored. Well, some 30 years ago The Stone Roses released their debut album and one of its hit singles was "I Wanna
Be Adored", to me one of the earliest moments of Brit Pop movement that took over the 1990's with themselves being a great part of it along with Oasis, The Verve,
Radiohead, The Verve and many others. Minor exaggeration of mine but I see it that way, it sounds exactly like the movement would become but fresh, early developments, baby steps. The music video here consists of band performing the song behind dark plains and mountains, slow motion movements and the lead
singer lip-synching the song with the microphone way below his mouth - yet it's an iconic image. Lyrics are quite reduced and repetitive but the instruments make it more special.
I wasn't much fan of the group but through the years I started to enjoy them a lot, and this clip exactly, all mysterious and slightly sinister - the song begins in such a dark mode - hooked me up from the beginning and that became my favorite song of theirs (along with "She Bangs the Drums", also from the same album). The video's athmosphere, the visuals, the location and its simplicity conquered me and I never forgot about it. As for the song, it feels like an hymn of a generation that were crossing a decade from another and they wanted some change - enough with alienation, enough with pain and desperation, we want the blessings and joy life can bring us - we need to feel accepted, or in the highest form of praises and to quote a poet "To indeed be a god!" because only gods can be adored. So why can't we? Just my analysis that goes in contrast with the environment presented where The Stone Roses perform in this beautiful yet haunting place where one can interpret as being a heaven or some form of hell - either way, they want to be adored and without selling their souls. It's magical/spiritual stuff that you have to see it and feel it to form a whole image. That's the one I've got, and you're free to form yours. Great stuff. 9/10
Minor clip but excellent song about a great noble cause
"Empty words, empty mouths..." Yes, R.E.M. "Talk About the Passion" is a song about human poverty and famine around the world - though by the end of the clip they
present facts about how much a destroyer ship costs and the sum is enough to provide food and shelter to people who don't have the means for it yet they live in
the richest country on the globe. It's a powerful song, catchy despite the slight sadnesss, somewhat hopeful (in my view, at least). The video consists of showing
the misery and poverty from the great American cities - New York mostly - with beggars lying on benches, people walking around the streets; lonely figures in
somewhat peaceful moments.
Nothing to say, nothing to eat...world hasn't changed much since then. This song reminded me of a more hard hitting and critical song that came around the same time, "A Canção do Senhor da Guerra" ("The Lord of War's Song") by Legião Urbana. The lyrics (which came in 1985) makes the same final analysis presented at the clip's conclusion: "Why export food if the guns provide more profit on exportation?". That's the world we live, from tragedy to tragedy but someone has to profit, and it's never the needed ones. Well, as for the clip it isn't one of R.E.M.'s greatest moments - in fact, I only came to know it recently - not a classic, more memorable due to its a reflective and powerful song than for its black and white images or lack of some story. However, it makes you think about life in a different way - that's a plus. And the band does not appear in the video - a rarity. But it's great for the cause, to enlight some hearts and minds, to provide some compassion because it's not everyone who can carry the weight of the world. We must help them to ease the burden. PEACE! 9/10
When AIDS Was Funny (2015)
Media, politicians, outsiders from the AIDS cause...they didn't care.
This one's hard to make a point or a glowing or downer review, and even more difficult to where to begin how to pinpoint the importance this short film has
but on the other way how low mankind and politics can go in inhuman levels. Those know who lived the era or came to know in years to come how HIV/AIDS were treated
all around the globe knows how tough and shocking it was, people simply didn't care except those who were dying from it. And most of us know how Reagan administration
treated the issue back in the early 1980's - a disease that hit people and the news medias in 1981 but Mr. Reagan only mentioned it for the first time in 1985 and by
then - the gay disease as it was known - had already claimed the lives of thousands of people. It's too bad this documentary doesn't show that moment the U.S.
president said AIDS for the first time (all we know is that September 85 was the period a month before Rock Hudson, one of his best friends die from it and making
all the headlines and then the virus became a prominent issue).
Scott Calonico's film presents a dark, sinister, cynical and uncaring part of AIDS history: the earliest press conferences by the White House related to HIV/AIDS topic. In 1982, journalist Lester Kinsolving asked then press secretary Larry Speaks on how this new disease was treated by Reagan administration. The man knew nothing, completely oblivious to the cause and when the gay community was mentioned the attendees of this conference, several reporters, kept laughing on the matter. Everything is presented through audios and images of the figures involved, mostly Speaks and Kinsolving; and the questions rise through the years while a picture of AIDS victims along with the death toll are shown in between those conferences which somehow always brings laughter in that audience: a pivotal moment is when the reporter asks if Reagan had AIDS and Speaks throws to the man "Well, do you have it?". My level of outrage was going through the roof. One simply cannot put AIDS and funny on the same sentence - well, the director used it usely and got away with it, but that was the point. 1) You wanna see what's all about and 2) You have to conclude if it is funny what went there or not. Trust me, it's not. It's enraging the level of mismanagement, indifference and not a positive word on "we're working on it", "we have a budget to cure it" or "we feel sorry about the victims". Nothing! It's all treated as a joke that only the usual status quo (then and now) would find it funny.
The film works in shaking us from our reality, to remember a time when prejudice, death sentence about an unkwnon virus and panic among population were one of the most disastrous things that ever happened in the 1980's and to see how to a minor ridicuous group of people it was the talk of the town but as a funny anedocte. As evidenced in Shilts "And the Band Played On", the level of news reports about AIDS was very limited, never on the front page and usually two or three paragraphs - except in scientific publications or gay communities papers (San Francisco and New York only). And through a research after this film, I came to know that the daring reporter Kinsolving was only interested in asking about the HIV/AIDS topic on those White House meetings just to push the politicians buttons. That man is not dedicated to the gay cause, in fact, it's quite the opposite. But we're thankful for him and his act because it brought light to the issue, it brought those haunting words in that majestic house and then they had to come up with a response...which came years too late. As for the moronic Speaks, a few years later after his press secretary tenure, he revealed that most of the time he had to come up with answers on the spot but things that could reflect Reagan's way of thought. So, there goes to show that old man didn't care about AIDS neither its victims. Come and see it. 8/10
Nice soundtrack clip for a great film
One of the original songs composed for Jim Sheridan master classic "In the Name of the Father", "You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart" has singer Sinéad O'Connor
appearing in similar situations as presented in the film - whose major scenes are presented along with her moments. For those who don't know the picture, it tells
the story of a petty thief who is wrongly imprisoned along with his father and other mates, all considered to be part of the IRA and their attack on a British pub
that killed several people back in 1974. The character played by Daniel Day-Lewis suffers beatings and torture in order to confess for a crime he didn't commit, so
the scenario presented with Sinéad is quite similar: she's thrown in jail then goes to confessional rooms, tied and restrained by officers by the difference is that she dubs her song in an angry and maddening matter, filled with passion. And she knows how to act too...as also demonstrated in her supporting role in Neil Jordan's "The Butcher Boy".
Well, the idea isn't all that new in mixing the song performer with the film clips but it works in a nice way. It sells the picture with great precision - though it's not my favorite song from the movie (I prefer the title track sung by Bono, which opens the movie). It's a protest, powerfully made and it works fine in seeing and remembering the movie while we feel powerless like Sinéad trying to understand the injustices of the world, mostly of that story in particular. Watch both film and clip just to form a whole perspective. 8/10
O Santo Salvador e o Demônio (2003)
Intense and well-made
"O Santo Salvador e o Demônio" ("The Saint Savior and the Devil") is truly something special. It's images echo through my mind for a long time and how such a
simple story, probably told a thousand times on other short or feature films, yet I was still amazed by it. On director's Daguito Rodrigues net profile (or YouTube,
where he posted it), it is said that this film was a film college project...and for what he presented, conquered and showed to us this is one of the most impressive
film students ever made. Gotta have some real nerve to film in a crowded place such as a São Paulo centre - crowded, noisy, unexpected and violent just as the
situation presented in the story.
It all starts with a robber (Ricardo Leite Agostinho) who after an almost failed assault was chased by the police, entered into a bar and made hostages. When he realizes there's no escape from there since the bar's owner secretly called the cops (and then he noticed it) he takes a girl (Julia Saragoza) as his main hostage and goes into a building. He can kill her at any time but she defies him every single time even when there's a possible chance of this man rapes her. So, they get into this decaying building (the Praça da Sé surroundings has lots of places like that still now) where the elevator breaks; old and loud neighbors keep creeping in but they find an empty apartment. And that's when the story gets crazy and interesting. An old fat man pops in and we get to find that, despite the scenario of a young tormented man with a gun could kill him and the girl, that man is acquainted with the girl and they don't have a good relationship (I won't go into further details, can't spoil the enjoyment). But they hate each other, and in the girl's case more than her kidnapper - who doesn't have a clue about what's going on.
What can I say? It was brilliantly made and the main issue - and that also goes with the title - is that the person who brings you danger and harm might be your guardian angel or savior if you prefer, and the matter of chances of life (coincidences if you understand better) is always around us when we least expect. Well, it's hard to expect. It's the surprise that makes things better even when you thought the worst is yet to come. Here's a frantic, fast, tense, thrilling and reliable film experience, greatly acted by first timers (the robber was really good. Sometimes he sounds far theatrical but he makes the film. Good looking man too who developed a career later on). The thing that bothers is the ultimate scene involving real life figures, a clown doing trick on Catedral da Sé, which was off-putting and too random, I couldn't find a meaning to it. Harmless but really good. Thumbs Up! 8/10
Return to the Titanic: Live! (1987)
Gotta be a Titanic buff or have an open mind to truly enjoy this. I thought it was okay.
Now here's an once in a lifetime event....just like Titanic's maiden voyage back in April 1912. And here's the kind of thing that only in the
lavish and crazy 1980's could ever happen; today, the level of political correctness wouldn't allow such thing to happen, there'd be protests against the
possible exhibition or even a huge backlash after its airing. "Back to the Titanic: Live from Paris!" is sort of cringeworthy thing but I gotta admit: I was
curious in knowing what would be revealed that we didn't know about the mystery of the mythical ship that went to the bottom of the occean after hitting an iceberg after its innaugural trip to the States in 1912, killing more than 1500 people onboard when everyone, White Star Line, his builder Thomas Andrews said that this was an unsinkable ship - the biggest of its era. As they say in James Cameron's film: "It was the ship of dreams...".
The program broadcast live on 1987, two years after expert Robert Ballard and his team finally find the ship's location and reveal its condition and objects, comes this show that was a stunning case of grave-digging to some, exploitation to others and fascinated findings to a few: a rich French team decided to return to the ship - since then the location was now know by every diver or exploration teams - to collect items that weren't recovered by Ballard's team and present to audiences (I guess lots of rich folks were dying to know what it was and would want to pay lots of cash to have them. If I'm not wrong the first objects like plates and White Star Line material was already in museums or being acquired by collectors). Host Telly Savalas presents Titanic's story with great ellegance and class (except for an hilarious moment after opening a bottle of champagne, he walks in this tiny set, trips to a chair and almost falls. So, if you think the program is tasteless just watch for that moment which is a killer hysterical moment of laughter). The opening moments before Savalas comes to the screen is of security guards, highly armed holding the new Titanic findings in secrecy- an almost kind of "Miami Vice" kind of thing. Laughable as well. And what is revealed is a safe. What's in there? Well, the show keeps going on secret with lots and lots of commercial breaks, backstory of Titanic and the survivors who were still alive back in the day sharing their stories about the tragedy.
I saw this out of sheer curiosity some months ago, don't remember all that much about what was in the safe; so if you're curious go and challenge yourself. But what I do remember was that there was some minor objects; one belonged to a named person whose parents were alive in the 1980's I think; and a bunch of currency money and coins from the 1910's. And it was so bizarre seeing those three or four experts trying to analyze if the objects were authentic or not; carefully handling the wet money at the same time Telly Savalas was able to carry an object without wearing a glove. Those things after more than 70 years below the sea vanish easily without a proper care. Amazing, has to be seen to be believed the level of dumbness. I guess the main succees of this event was that, even if the makers could make things up or present fake objects, they didn't make the imfamous moment of Geraldo Rivera's embarassment in the previous year while opening Al Capone's empty secret vault. David Mamet probably used this in "The Untouchables" when Elliot Ness found those alleged booze boxes filled with umbrellas.
If I sound bitter or contemptous about this show, trust me, I'm not. I liked it because it reminds me of daring, bold and outrageous moments in entertainment that will never happen again and its nostalgic; not to mention that it got me gripped all the way. I wasn't bored, I was stunned and truly curious in knowing about what could possibly be rescued from the Titanic and let's face it, I'm always excited and curious to know more and more stories about that ship - and others as well but we all know that that's THE ONE that made impact in "recent era" - except for the amazing Galeão Santa Rosa (for those who don't know, it's was a Portuguese ship way back in 1700 that exploded or crashed with lots of gold in it and it still hasn't been found). My review is possibly the most enthusiastic ever; the ones released back in 1987 and still can be found on the net are far more damaging, hilarious and critical - I agree with them in some, there was some exploitation with the victims/survivors (there were some dozens still alive and who complained about the show); it surfaced traumas to some and it was much ado about almost nothing. So what? They found money in one of the vaults, and a medallion. It can't be used or traded for current value. They had to stay soaked in special water otherwise they'll vanish away, total disintegration. But, if the TV can show it and the program still exists what only counts is that we were able to visualize relics from a different era. Quite good. Almost like seeing dinosaurs skeletons. It's not great TV but it almost got there for a little while. 7/10