Friday, September 09, 2016

The Candidate (1972)

Second viewing; first viewed between 1983 and 1986.

A liberal-minded lawyer with no political experience receives an invitation to run for the Senate as a Democrat.

I once loved this film. Not anymore. It is well-made, sure. But its premise of corruption of ideological virtue is at best simpleminded and at worst -- well, I'd rather not think about that. Anyway, they made a masterpiece of mise-en-scène based on false principles. So, what to do?

Rating: 69 (down from 76)

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Per sempre (1991)

English title: Forever

Bernice feels attracted towards her womanizing father, ever since she was a teenager. After his death, presumably during a sexual encounter, she spends time at the apartment where he met his lovers, and recollects her moments with him. During that time, she meets several of his past mistresses.

I am not sure a plot point which is at the center of this film makes sense, but revealing anything about it would perhaps be a spoiler, so I will not go into it. Eroticism is the foundation of the drama, a notion which for me is hardly compelling; everything, on the other hand, is done with good taste.

Though the action is set in Brazil, the film -- or anyway the copy which is widely distributed -- is entirely spoken in English. The copy I saw had subtitles in Portuguese, made by someone who doesn't know the difference between state and estate.

Rating: 36

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

São Paulo Sociedade Anônima (1965)

Second viewing; first viewed on April 1, 2001.

Carlos has several lovers and little money. He meets Luciana, who is a respectable girl. Carlos gets a job in an automobile factory.

Ambitious attempt at combining psychological drama with social panorama. The main character is a chronic malcontent who gets on everybody's nerves. The events are set to the backdrop of the Brazilian transition to a modern society in the late 1950s. The film is excessively discursive but a masterpiece comparatively to the average Brazilian production. It has strong characters and articulates a coherent social critique.

Rating: 68 (unchanged)

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Relatos salvajes (2014)

English title: Wild Tales

(1) The passengers on a flight find they all have something in common. (2) A waitress at a roadside restaurant recognizes one of her customers. (3) Two drivers on a deserted highway conflict with each other. (4) An implosion expert has his car towed while he is buying a cake. (5) A wealthy man tries to free his son from jail after he hits and runs on a pregnant woman. (6) During her wedding reception, a bride finds out about her husband-to-be's infidelities.

'Loss of control' is what the tagline wants us to believe this film's theme to be. Many commenters have mentioned revenge as well (or instead). I have to disagree strongly with both. I live in Brazil and this film captures a portion of my country's reality just as well as it presumably captures Argentina's. And yet, I do not picture Brazilians as particularly out-of-control individuals, or especially prone to vengeance. I suppose Argentinians wouldn't fit in those categories either. It is important to distinguish the essential theme, as opposed to contingent ones. What I see here is a society that has lost its bonding element. And when that is lost, people turn against people. Men against women. Rich against poor. State against citizen. And so on. Earlier works which dealt with related issues (and which have been mentioned in connection with this film) are Duel and Falling Down. Probably there are others.

Rating: 60

Friday, August 05, 2016

River of Death (1989)

A man guides a heterogeneous group of people with diverse interests on a search for a lost city in the Amazon jungle. An escaped Nazi doctor is said to be hiding there.

Third-rate adventure which would probably be less painful if watched with the audio switched off. It is basically a collection of very old clichés, some of which are geographically or anthropologically wrong. The cinematography is good, though.

Rating: 30

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Carnaval em Lá Maior (1955)

Musical comedy. The semblance of a plot revolves around a guy who romances a girl and later marries her. There are some scenes at a school for actors, at which  the girl lives for a while after her house burns up.

This follows the pattern for musical comedies in Brazil from the 1930s onward: a thin plot as a mere excuse for a succession of random musical numbers featuring radio stars (at that point in time, possibly TV stars as well). It has a slightly freer than usual approach to humor, evoking at times the Marx Brothers' style. One subplot borrows the central idea from On demande un assassin. Apparently, only a fragment of the original movie was exhibited, as a scene involving a furniture salesman is mentioned on the literature but is absent from the copy I saw; possibly that scene was lost (this is a newly restored copy). Another possibility is that it was cut by the TV channel.

Rating: 31

Friday, July 29, 2016

Voulez-vous danser avec moi (1959)

English title: Come Dance with Me!

A married man is blackmailed by a woman with whom he was photographed in compromising positions. That woman is murdered and he becomes a suspect. His wife takes personal charge of a private investigation, by getting a job at the dance school where the deceased woman worked.

It may just be that I was in a bad mood that day, but this movie, for me, was almost unwatchable. As a mystery story, it is as lame as they come. Not only there is no ingenuity in the plot, but both the police and the suspects behave stupidly, in an almost farcical manner -- and the problem is that as a farce it is very lame too. I guess one could praise the color cinematography, but the standard definition TV channel on which I viewed it didn't allow full enjoyment of that aspect.

Rating: 26

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Murphy's Romance (1985)

A recently divorced woman with one son moves to a small town, expecting to make a living as a horse trainer. She befriends the local drugstore owner, a widower.

The interesting thing about this movie is how it is built on a spartan succession of completely predictable incidents, and yet must resort to surprises as key plot-movers; thus you have two incidents of unexpected visitors, one surprise party, two surprise game winnings, etc. These characters have little to do with real people, of course, and that becomes clear early on when the main male character, a drugstore owner in a very small town, is depicted as concerned with reforestation and nuclear disarmament. These fads are gone, of course, and today his fictive concerns would be global warming and xenophobia, or some such stuff. Small towns are depicted stereotypically, but not too unkindly. On a side note, I found the resemblance between the actors playing mother and son amazing.

Rating: 50

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Clash of the Titans (1981)

Greek demi-god Perseus goes through a series of adventures in order to save his beloved Andromeda from death decreed by the gods of Olympus.

Everything in this film is done with a modicum of good taste and respectable production values; there are stop-motion animation sequences which in themselves are attractive and in fact may have been the whole point of the movie. I can't help being a little sad, however, at the use for entertainment of religious concepts which, historically, have more serious roots.

Rating: 40

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

WUSA (1970)

New Orleans, 1962. The main characters are a radio announcer at a reactionary station, his girlfriend, and a public servant who collects surveys about welfare recipients. The plot concerns a fraud with the intent of stripping people of their welfare benefits; there is also a conspiracy devised by the reactionaries who own the radio station.

This is a completely absurd film, which manages to offend both conservatives and liberals (or at least it should, if they have any self-respect). As a delirious self-parody, it is mildly amusing. Nuns in this film are praised for being great encouragers of individuals with an artistic inclination -- the exact opposite of what they were depicted as in The Lady in the Van.

Rating: 31

The Lady in the Van (2015)

A destitute woman makes a home out of her van. She is a nuisance to the people who live near her parking place. She eventually settles by the house of a playwright who lives by himself.

I frankly don't have much to say about this movie. It is fairly believable as a character study and a chronicle of British life (I speak as a foreigner who has never lived there).

Rating: 60

Thursday, July 14, 2016

O Beijo (1964)

A man has his life destroyed after he kisses a dying man on the street, allegedly at the latter's request.

I used to find the plot, which I already knew from another film version, ingenious, but I am not so fond of it today. I found this version confusing at points, and not well directed.

Rating: 31

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Arthur (1981)

Second viewing; first viewed in 1982, or, at the earliest, December 1981.

Arthur is a millionaire who leads a life of carelessness. He has never worked, and has a drinking habit. His father threatens to disinherit him unless he marries a certain woman. One day Arthur meets a shoplifter and falls in love with her.

Slightly overrated comedy which derives most of its hilarity from the central character's jokes. The plot is negligible and in fact severely absurd at some points. I mean, in real life they make you marry the ugly one and you fall in love with the pretty one, right?

Rating: 54 (down from 58)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Vaghe stelle dell'orsa (1965)

Second viewing; first viewed between the beginning of 1983 and the end of 1986.

English titles: Sandra; Sandra of the Thousand Delights; Vague Stars of the Bear.

This is about a recently wed woman who visits the house where she grew up. Her emotionally-charged family history resurfaces, shattering her stability and threatening her marriage. The pivot of the turmoil is her past relationship with her brother, in a context of Nazi persecution of the Jews.

I suspect some might find this film objectionable, especially in the face of its own diretor (and co-writer)'s own commentary about it (read it here in Italian and here in Portuguese). What I mean is that there are two kinds of ambiguity in this film. One is intrinsic to human nature and thus cannot be dissolved; it has to do with inner feelings and complex motivations. Another is the ambiguity which derives from the filmmaker's decision of not revealing certain aspects of the story; Sandra's stepfather has either sent her father to death or hasn't, so there is no middle ground here. The director seems to elude this distinction when he talks about ambiguity. Apart from that question, there are some enjoyable things to be found in the movie, although, as usual for me, that enjoyability is not dissociated from a sense of hilarity. The lyrical atmosphere does not survive intact the melodramatic plot; the latter, in turn, has a hard time coping with a female protagonist whose actions might be construed in the end as somewhat cynical.

Rating: 56 (down from 70)