The Thrill of Brazil

The Ninth Brazilian Film Festival of Miami stands out as an embarrassment of riches

ODIABO A QUATRO/ FOUR FOR NONE (2004):

Alice de Andrade's positively amoral comedy may well prove to be one of the festival's most endearing discoveries. An unlikely foursome is at the heart of this unusual caper: a lost but definitely spunky little boy who loves a poor nanny-turned-hooker who has an obsession for a rich babe who himself has a thing for exotic dancers; then there's the nanny's pimp. All of this plus a hilariously smarmy television host, some pathetic criminals, the noise and excitement of a senatorial campaign, a lot of sex, vibrant music, and action that breezes from the Copacabana and bustling Rio to the deep Brazilian countryside of Minas Gerais. Don't miss it.

Details

June 11-18. Jackie Gleason Theater, 1700 Washington Ave, Miami Beach. Industry seminars June 13-16 and a retrospective of Daniel Filho films June 13-17 305-358-5885, 954-523-3309,
the Miami Beach Cinematheque, 512 EspaŮola Way, Miami Beach

FEMINICES (2004):

How do you say chick flick in Portuguese? This takes some explaining actually. Imagine that, back in 1993, a group of Brazilian actresses had a surprise stage hit with their Confessions of Thirty-Somethings, a reality-based confessional play that ended up running in Rio for five years. Ten years later the cast assembles once more, for a glimpse at the life of the now fortysomething actresses. The whole affair of course is written and directed by Domingos Oliveras in what he calls a "quasi-documentary" shot on video, pretty much Sundance-ready, with an artsy blend of color and black and white. The artificiality of Feminices takes away little of its queasy, surprising impact. The women's stories ring true, you see. Priscilla Rozenbaum, Didina Bernardelli, Clarice Niskier, and Caca Murthe all turn in performances that belie just how precious the movie's conceit is.

ODIQUE? / WHAT'S UP? (2004):

The story is simple: Three ridiculously good-looking lowlife buddies from Rio need cash to get to Bahia for carnival, so they go on an unlikely crime spree. It would be easy to dismiss Felipe Joffily's gritty and explosive picture, written by Gustavo Moretzsohn, as just the latest in a long line of Quentin Tarantino's illegitimate offspring. But there is more going on here. True, the decorative violence, the intense chatter about nonsense indulged in simply for the sound of it, the shallow nihilism spouted by a hot cast, the interminable what-do-we-do-now scenes in the heat of a crime -- stylistic quirks all too familiar from everything from Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction right through both installments of Kill Bill -- are all present and up front in Odique? Also it must be noted that the subtitles attempting to translate Rio street slang into a sort of Ebonics 101 does get a bit irritating. And yet also here is Marcelo Brasil's daring use of the camera as an implacable, immovable witness that would have made Marguerite Duras proud: Characters often move in and out of a shot and hint that life truly is elsewhere. There is a real sense of danger in the drug deals, despite the humor, as well as a sexual tension among the sexually competitive trio of straight boys gone wild. There is Joffily's use of music, from Debussy to hip-hop, that sounds just right but never upstages the action. There is, in other words, real artistry here. Bolstering Joffily's sensitive direction are irresistible performances by Alexandre Moretzsohn, Dudu Azevedo, Leonardo Carvalho, and especially Caua Reymond, a familiar face from the international modeling circuit making a spectacularly smooth transition to big-screen stardom. Odique? -- though not quite on the same level as A Dona da Historia -- is one of the festival's strongest and most winning entries.

MEU TIO MATOU UM CARA / MY UNCLE KILLED A GUY (2004):

This is one cool movie. The setup is a hoot: A favorite uncle drops in at dinnertime and announces "I just killed a guy." What follows is madness, nicely observed from a very bright teenager's point of view. Duca, a computer addict as well as born sleuth with an active fantasy life, imagines his video games might hold the key to solving a crime. He also knows that although his uncle might not be the brightest member of the family, he is probably no killer. What makes Jorge Furtado's picture stand out is that the director never dumbs down Duca's perspective, he never betrays the boy's reality, and he creates a touching and funny portrait of a difficult age that will delight audiences of all ages. Alex Sernambi's cinematography and Furtado's masterly directorial hand add up to a feat of positively exuberant filmmaking. The relaxed and natural multiracial casting, the sensuous use of music by the great Caetano Veloso and Andre Morães, and above all the performances by Darlan Cunha as Duca and by Sophia Reiss and Renan Gioelli as his best friends make for a tender, clever picture.

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