7 posts categorized "Brazilian Cinema"

January 22, 2016

BLACK GOD, WHITE DEVIL — CLASSIC FILM PICK

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ColeSmithey.comIn 1964, when Brazil enjoyed a golden era of culture and musical influence (Bossa Nova), 25-year-old writer/director Glauber Rocha left an indelible mark on international cinema with “Black God, White Devil.”

Following on the heels of his equally dynamic feature debut film “Barravento,” “Black God” redoubled Rocha’s Cinema Novo movement, which carried Rocha’s socially rebellious anti-capitalist and anti-religious beliefs.

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As a founding member of Brazil’s radical left, Rocha espoused the eradication of money while working as a film critic and journalist in his teens. After making this film, Rocha published his “Aesthetic of Hunger,” a socio-political manifesto calling for a revolutionary cinema, that he fulfilled with his next two films (“Terra em Transe” and “Antonio das Mortes”), which combine to form a trilogy.

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The Brazilian maverick from Bahia appreciated the works of Luis Bunuel, Jean Luc Goddard, and Roberto Rossellini, whose influence comes through in Rocha’s helter-skelter films. In turn, “Black God, White Devil” inspired a diverse generation of filmmakers from around the globe. Traces of his influence can be found in auteurs as distinctive as Sergio Leone and Alejandro Jodorowsky.

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Fiercely political from beginning to end, the linear narrative follows Manuel (Geraldo Del Rey), a peasant ranch hand, and his downcast wife Rosa (Yona Magalhaes). A drought ravages the arid Sertao outback where Manuel and Rosa struggle to survive during the 1940s. When his cattle rancher boss attempts to cheat him, Manuel kills the brute and goes on the run with Rosa into the hinterlands.

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The newly minted outlaw falls under the spell of Sebastiao (Lidio Silva), a bloodthirsty religious leader (a self-decreed saint) who condones violence and human sacrifice. Sebastiao preaches about an imaginary “sacred” island destination where the land and the sky will become one after a rain of gold.

An apocalypse is coming, he promises. Sebastiao adds to his followers with an ongoing procession of intimidation and violence. His goons fire rifles into the air when they pass through sleepy villages. The leader personally attacks the women that he effectively kidnaps. He makes Manuel crawl for miles on his knees while balancing a heavy rock on his head before convincing his loyal subject that Rosa’s newborn infant is the devil, and must be sacrificed. Only blood can cleanse the souls of Sebastiao’s flock. When Sebastiao kills her baby, Rosa takes up the dagger against the charlatan. Now she and Manuel are equals.

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Rocha’s roving handheld camera creates a subjective viewpoint of the remote landscape and the oppressed peasants who are easily exploited by anyone with a gun. Enter Captain Corisco (Othon Bastos), a cangaceiro (a nomadic bandit) to co-opt Manuel’s and Rosa’s quest for freedom, if not salvation. Dressed in a Napoleonic-styled hat bejeweled with coins, Corisco fits the bill of a bandolero-toting cowboy. A church-hired assassin, on a mission to kill Corisco, lurks in the sagebrush of the desolate region.

“Black God, White Devil” is a cinematic call for the audience to reject all political and religious doctrine in favor of an individual liberty at one with nature, something you could call sustainable.

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Not Rated. 120 mins.

5 StarsBMOD COLE2

Cozy Cole

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June 03, 2013

CITY OF GOD — CLASSIC FILM PICK

    ColeSmithey.com    Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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ColeSmithey.com“City of God” epitomizes the rich potential of cinema to tell richly textured tales, here of a vast, desperate, community of peasants consumed by an endless cycle of violence.

It is as close to a perfect film as I have ever seen. The picture sounds a clarion call for social reform for Brazil’s crime-riddled impoverished favelas — of which one in Rio de Janeiro inspires the name of this film. It’s easier for this City's inhabitants to obtain guns and drugs than it is to get food.

Basing the story on real events and people, co-directors Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund employ a host of young non-professional actors residing in the Cidade de Deus slums where the story takes place.

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Each of the story’s broad range of characters is an authentic representation of complex personalities because these naturally gifted actors are de facto playing themselves — albeit under Meirelles’s and Lund’s brilliant direction.

Braulio Mantovani’s methodically constructed screenplay is narrated with subjective clarity by Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), a young aspiring photographer caught between his deadly surroundings and his treasured sense of ambition. Like many teenaged boys, Rocket’s desire to lose his virginity is on his immediate list, as is acquiring a better camera.

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Alexandre Rodrigues’s organic empathy provides the movie with the charismatic protagonist the film needs to balance out the many tragic horrors that occur. Rocket’s subjective experience puts a personal stamp on the senseless crime and violence that surrounds him at the hands of boys attempting to become men via the use of guns. The film’s exceptionally measured time-flipping format adds depth and context. A bookended plot theme — regarding the fate of an escaped chicken — come to historically relevant fruition through chapter sequences with titles such as, “The Story of the Tender Trio,” “The Story of the Apartment,” and “The Story of Li’l Ze.”

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Teenage warlords recruit ever-younger generations of drug-dealing armed boys whose easy and cheap killing is informed by police oppression and economic neglect. For the Brazilian authorities, favela dwellers are a disposable class of drug traffickers who provide cocaine and marijuana to Brazil’s wealthy “middle-class.”

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The Story of Li’l Ze establishes the maniacal personality of an eight-year-old boy who commits an unthinkable random act of mass murder as part of a robbery in which he participates for his entré to crime. An inveterate murderer, Li’l Ze soon takes over as the region’s most influential crime lord.

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For all of the story’s violent subject matter, there is also much natural beauty to savor. Cesar Charlone’s dynamic cinematography captures Brazil’s magnificent landscape in conjunction with a 360-degree awareness of location. Every aspect of the filmmaking that went into “City of God” exists as a virtuosic symphony of theme, character, context, and fact-based subject matter. To watch “City of God” is to become submersed in a hidden culture where life is cheap but the humanity is vibrant.

Rated R. 130 mins. 

5 StarsBMOD COLE2

Cozy Cole

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November 05, 2011

ELITE SQUAD: THE ENEMY WITHIN

Welcome!

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

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ColeSmithey.comCo-writer/director José Padilha’s fiery sequel to his right-leaning “Elite Squad” (2007) digs deeper this time into Rio de Janeiro’s culture of crime and corruption through the seen-it-all eyes of returning protagonist Nascimento (Wagner Moura). Too many years on Brazil’s paramilitary BOPE (Special Police Operations Battalion) squad (think SWAT) have left Lt. Colonel Nascimento unable to control his own men. Moura handles his character’s balance of job fatigue and waning arrogance with a world weariness that shows in his tired eyes.

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within,' From Brazil - Review - The New York Times

Nascimento’s top pupil Captain André Matias (powerfully played by André Ramiro) proves too quick to employ BOPE’s ingrained shoot-first rule of engagement during a prison uprising that sees warring factions of inmates brutally attacking one another. One prisoner is “barbecued” between old mattresses.

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within Reviews - Metacritic

Padilha understands the claustrophobic nature of enclosed spaces and their ability to infect violent panic among prisoners. The early sequence sets a worst-case scenario tone. A dead gang leader’s blood winds up on the shirt of leftist civil servant Fraga (Irandhir Santos) even as he negotiates a truce. To address public outrage in response to pressure from human rights activists Nascimento is “promoted” to the desk job of sub-secretary of intelligence, where he heads the city’s wiretap program. Nascimento also enjoys a certain hero status pumped up by a right-wing television host who works his Bill O'Reilly-styled brand of hate-mongering. Put through the filter of its association with American media propaganda, the monologue sequences drip with irony and sarcasm.

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within | Netflix

Quicksilver editing by Daniel Rezende works with Lula Carvalho’s instinctive cinematography to mask the film’s crutch of voiceover-heavy narration, which overstates the film’s subtext. As with Brazil’s past decade of stylized filmic achievements (see “City of God”) “Elite Squad: The Enemy Within” carries a stamp of gritty and glossy neo-realism.

Review: 'Elite Squad: The Enemy Within' Is A Frantic, Expertly Knotty  Thriller | IndieWire

Rio’s criminal drug cartels are now run by corrupt politicians and dirty cops who leech blood money from the impoverished favelas with impunity. Nascimento must also contend with the fact that his ex-wife Rosane (Maria Ribeiro), and mother of his teenage son, has remarried to Nascimento’s fiercest rival, leftist intellectual Fraga (Irandhir Santos). Their intertwined story brings the film to a surprisingly powerful climax that takes full advantage its potential for emotional and thematic import.

At Home in a War Zone - The New York Times

“Elite Squad: The Enemy Within” is a vast improvement over the franchise’s first installment because it puts more emphasis on the emotional cost of political, economic, and military corruption. One civilian’s terrorist is another's occupying military policeman.

The “enemy within” is the fraudulent system that treats citizens as disposable property to be exploited for whatever profit can be squeezed out. Impoverished citizens aren’t just economically and physically abused, they are harvested. Some are shot in cold blood on the street; others are shuffled into an ever-growing penal system that threatens to eventually imprison 95% of Brazil’s population. Crime equals big profits, but only for the cops and politicians who simultaneously make and break the rules. As Brazil eats itself from the inside out, so does Europe, China, and the United States, sacrificing decency to line the coffers of its elite enemy within. It couldn’t be spelled out any clearer.

Not Rated. 116 mins.

4 Stars“ColeSmithey.com”

Cozy Cole

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