Monday, April 23, 2007

Brazilian Cinema

Spotlight on Brazilian Cinema, part 1

Ah Brazil. Copacabana beach, Sun, Sand, Futbol, Samba, Carnivale, Dance, Music, Sugar Loaf mountain. Just some of the exotic symbols of Brazil that come to mind.

However, in recent years (thanks to films and documentaries) other images of Brazil have been given attention -- favelas and the poverty. There are now even organized tours which give photo happy tourists a glimpse of life on the other side of society. And in the last few years, Brazil's government & economic quirks have ensured international economists and journalists keep Brazil in mind when churning out articles. But no matter what negative image is painted on Brazil, its futbol continues to excite and thrill. As an added bonus, in recent years its cinema has also produced some vintage displays of color, energy, emotion and plenty of passion. So in order to explore some Brazilian symbols, cliches and truths, I decided to shed a spotlight on Brazilian cinema with 5 works. Here is part one:

Chronically Unfeasible (2000, Director Sergio Bianchi): Rating 7.5/10

I could not have picked a better start to examining Brazilian life than this docu-drama by Sergio Bianchi. Bianchi examines the common problems that plague Brazil, such as poverty, attitudes of the rich, immigration, class differences and crime. This is neither a documentary nor a scripted film. Instead, we get to see staged version of the truth. As Bianchi points out, if he showed us the truth, then some viewers might find the images too offensive or others might take it as fiction. So Bianchi finds a middle ground -- he shows us some footage of 'real' events in various regions of Brazil and then goes on to shoot some staged scenes which highlight everyday problems that occur in that area. The result is a humorous meditation on human behaviour.

The film starts out in a restaurant where four rich people are busy blaming the problem of the country on the poor while having their expensive wine. Subsequent scenes show the professions of these four people and their behaviour with the common folk. A few other characters are added along the way to enhance the class differences between the rich and the poor. Besides class differences, regional hatred is displayed -- the North Easterners think the Southerners are to blame, the Southerners blame the North and so on. Bianchi shows that in some parts of Brazil, people are kept poor and given just enough music to be happy. While in another region, the rich unhappily live in Suburbs built on top of land tainted with blood of the natives.

A constant debate throughout the film is also regarding the merit of working. Some believe that work is necessary for man while others claim that man is being oppressed everytime he works. In a hilarious sequence, a labour union head oppresses and enslaves his people while asking them to conduct demonstrations against the oppression these people face from their employers. Overall, a very good place to start a spotlight on Brazil. Plenty of discussion points in this film.

Black Orpheus (1959, Director Marcel Camus): Rating 8/10

The energy, rhythm and joy of the Carnivale takes center stage in this re-telling of the classic love story between Orpheus and Eurydice. Right from the opening scenes, we are thrown into a pulsating & energetic Rio. The chaos of the festival is a backdrop to the tragic love story where death is always lurking for Eurydice around the corner. This is certainly an imaginative recreation of Orpheus's love for Eurydice and is completely different from Jean Cocteau's sublime 1950 film Orphée.

1 comment:

Pacze Moj said...

Black Orpheus is such an experience!

It should be watched in the evening, after a hot summer day, outside.