Rio Reels On

As you can see, there's more to Brazil than Samba, Lula, and Ronaldo

Unfortunately Antonio gets involved with Paco (Débora Falabella), who is a girl, but passes as a boy in order to get money giving blowjobs in bathrooms. She is also a crack addict, and an altogether unappealing character, except when she's stroking her body with ice cubes in the New York summer heat, in view of Antonio. Lust could be the only explanation why he takes her into his home, where she browbeats him continuously. Because of her, he loses his janitor job (and despite his easy green card, cannot seem to get another one), and ends up in prison on child prostitution charges. Antonio is such a wimp, and Paco such a bitch, that it's difficult to muster up much sympathy for the pair, let alone interest in this implausible film.

Durval Records, directed by Anna Muylaert, is good-spirited, but still a seat-squirmer. The Durval of the title runs a record store (and again, the music wins out here, with a lot of vintage Brazilian tunes). He lives with his mother and -- although they reside in São Paulo -- lives a pleasant small-town existence, committed to the wonders of vinyl even while those around him switch to CDs. In this Hollywood-esque comedy, the mother and son unwittingly come into custody of a little girl who was kidnapped from a rich family. By the time they discover her origins, Durval's mother has become so attached to the tiny charmer that she doesn't want to return her to her home. Many "screwball" antics ensue. This time the characters are likable enough, but the plot hardly transcends that of a typical sitcom episode. Two Lost in a Dirty Night plays on June 6 at 9:00 p.m.; Durval Records plays on June 5 at 7:00 p.m. -- Judy Cantor Mango Yello (Amarelo Manga)

Shakespeare's Macbeth, the ambitious warrior and would-be king, could have been a fitting character in Cláudio Assis's existential panorama Mango Yellow. The Scot's famous lament "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time" is echoed in the film's opening sequence as Ligia, the fiery waitress and proprietress of the local cantina, ponders her unbearably mundane existence. In the scene, she is at her wits' end while setting up her restaurant. With each chair that she takes from the tables, Ligia contemplates the fate that brands her a she-wolf in the lowlife world of Recife.

Ligia's angst sets the tone for the odd set of stories that follows. With a weird hyperreality that draws its tone from T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, Mango Yellowdelves into the far reaches of the human psyche. From the supremely righteous to the horrendous, Assis continually contrasts the sacred with the profane in this, his depiction of the underbelly of society. The director creates a tainted tapestry of broken characters who wind in and out of scenes, connected only by their desperation.

Desperate living and circumstance are the ingredients that bring the colorful cast of scammers, religious fanatics, prostitutes, and necrophiliacs together to form a loose narrative. It is their everyday dramas, such as Ligia's ongoing wrangling with lecherous drunks, that substitute for strong plotlines. If at times the stories are hard to believe and confusing, it is the nuanced performances of the actors that keep viewers interested.

At the center of the film is Isaac, a stinky scam artist known as El Aleman who roams through the city streets in a mango yellow Mercedes-Benz. The film follows him as he mutilates dead bodies and trades the remains, only to build a nasty inebriation at Ligia's restaurant. His bloated belly, sick palate, and scruffy bristle of silvering whiskers hint that he is a man with a past -- or perhaps the devil incarnate. His refuge from his sick reality are the pornographic dreams he has while hiding out in the seedy Texas Hotel.

Another central character is Dunga, a vengeful queen and caretaker of the hotel, who resorts to Santeria to snare Wellington, the man he desires. Once Dunga casts his spell by telling Wellington's wife of her man's love affair with a bawdy woman, he pays a steep price as his boss and probable sugar daddy is found dead.

Wellington, on the other hand, is in love with the supremely pious Kika, who cannot tolerate betrayal. When Kika discovers her man making love to a bawdy broad named Daisy, Kika pulls a Mike Tyson on the other woman, ripping off her ear with her teeth. The violent act gives Kika a taste of the wild life. Once she samples blood, metaphorically, she will never go back to being the prim buttoned-up church lady. She becomes tainted. Kika relinquishes her piety and surrenders to her fate as lowly soul. Kika is soon seen riding in the devil's mango-colored Mercedes, which leads to an unlikely and dangerous pairing.

The sequence of events happens over a 24-hour period. By nightfall we see the distressed Ligia repeating her anxious monologue about time. Assis punctuates the happenings with gritty clips of cattle being slaughtered. The bloody act is caught from the initial killing to the quartering of the cadavers with pickaxes. The spliced scenes, shown in lengthy segments, become uncomfortable if not symbolic interludes between the characters' stories.

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