Sunday, September 16, 2007

Brazilian Cinema

Spotlight on Brazilian Cinema, part four

Here are the final two films on the Brazilian spotlight:

Quilombo (1984, Director Carlos Diegues): Rating 7.5/10

Diegues' study of slavery in 17th century Brazil would qualify as a cinematic equivalent of literature's "magic realism" -- we get a heavy dose of harsh reality sprinkled with magical elements in the story's retelling. The title refers to the free slave settlements that existed in Brazil, especially Palmares (just outside Recife). These settlements were free to govern themselves but were often the target of other settlements or colonizers who wanted to enslave the people. And there is no better person than Carlos Diegues to shed a light on this slice of Brazilian history. One of the original members of Brazil's Cinema Novo movement, Diegues is not shy to depict the shrewd and hostile political tussles that existed with these quilombo's.

Herzog & Diegues: Werner Herzog's brilliant Cobra Verde may be set in Africa but it starts out in the sugar plantations of Brazil. And there is where Herzog's depictions of Brazilian slavery shares similar scenarios with the opening moments of Quilombo. But the powerful leader of the quilombo, Ganga Zumba, would be no match for the eccentric Francisco Manoel da Silva (Klaus Kinski) in Herzog's film. But then again, which cinematic character can match anything portrayed by Kinski?

Madame Satã (2002, Director Karim Ainouz): Rating 7/10

There is only reality in this Brazilian film which looks at the life of João Francisco dos Santos (or better known as Madame Satã), a transvestite performer who was not afraid to stand up for his rights. The real strength of the film is Lázaro Ramos' fearless & intense performance in bringing to life the dual role of João & Madame Satã. The cinematography is good but that is not a surprize when Walter Carvalho is behind the lens.

The multiple talents of Lázaro Ramos

It is a real treat to watch Lázaro in a film. In just a three year spell, he has played a diverse set of roles where he can equally lust after a woman or a man, can play an honest employee or a seasoned criminal. In Lower City, his eyes easily depicted the intensity of his desire for Alice Braga's character whereas in Madame Satã he plays a character not afraid to tempt men into the bedroom with equal intensity. He can be the innocent everyday man like in The Man Who Copied or can be a criminal within the fiery prison of Carandiru.

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